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Encyclopedia of the 
Archaeology of 
Ancient Egypt 

Edited by 
Kathryn A. Bard 

13 Routledge 

S^|^ Taylor & Franck Croup 

Also available as a printed book 

see title verso for ISBN details 

Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of 
Ancient Egypt 

Encyclopedia of the Archaeology 
of Ancient Egypt 

Compiled and edited by 

Kathryn A. Bard 

with the editing assistance of 

Steven Blake Shubert 


London and New York 

First published 1999 by Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE 
This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. 

"To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis 

or Routledge's collection of thousands of eBooks please go to" 

Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 29 West 35th Street, New York, 

NY 10001 

© 1999 Routledge 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or 

by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including 
photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission 

in writing from the publishers. 

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from 

the British Library 

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication Data Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient 

Egypt/edited by Kathryn A.Bard; with the editing assistance of Steven Blake Shubert. Includes 

bibliographical references and index. 1. Egypt — Antiquities — Encyclopedias. I. Bard, Kathryn A. 

II. Schubert, Steven Blake. DT58.E53 1998 98-16350 932\003-dc21 CIP 

ISBN 0-203-98283-5 Master e-book ISBN 

ISBN - (Adobe e-Reader Format) 
ISBN 0-415-18589-0 (Print Edition) 

To my mother, Rosemary Best Bard (1918-1997), and father, Robert Edward Bard 
(1918-) with thanks for all their encouragement, love, and support 


List of illustrations 


How to use this Encyclopedia 


Acknowledgments |xxvi 

List of abbreviations 

List of contributors xxx 

Chronology of Ancient Egypt xliii 

Overview essays: 

Introduction |l| 

Paleolithic cultures g 

Epi-paleolithic cultures |l6| 

Neolithic cultures 

Predynastic period 

Early Dynastic period 

Old Kingdom 

First Intermediate Period 

Middle Kingdom 

Second Intermediate Period 

New Kingdom 

Third Intermediate Period |65| 

Late and Ptolemaic periods [70| 

Roman period [77| 

Entries A-Z 






1 Correlation of Paleolithic sequence in the Nile Valley 7 

2 Distribution and chronological range of Late Paleolithic 13 
industries in the lower Nile Valley 

3 Chronology of tool production in the Near East 313 

4 Site distribution in the Wadi Tumilat by wadi division 1080 


1 Locations of published Lower Paleolithic sites 8 

2 Predynastic sites in Egypt 25 

3 Plan of the fort at Abu Sha'ar as it appeared following the 1993 91 

4 Design on carved ivory seal, Abusir el-Meleq, grave 1035 101 

5 Abydos North 107 

6 Predynastic sites in the Abydos region 116 

7 Umm el-Qa'ab, Abydos, Cemeteries U and B (1992) 122 

8 Inscribed labels from Tomb U-j, Umm el-Qa'ab, Abydos 123 

9 Tomb of King Qa'a, Umm el-Qa'ab, Abydos 126 

10 The mummy of Hefefi (from el-Hagarsa) in its wooden coffin 143 

11 El-Alamein, Marina, monument and superstructure of Tomb 1 145 

12 General view of the 1979 excavations at Kom el-Dikka 149 

13 Plan of the major monuments in the central city at el- 169 

14 Archaeological sites in the Aswan region 176 

15 Tentative plan of the Behbeit el-Hagara temple 191 

16 The town of Berenike Panchrysos 200 

17 The main fortress, Berenike Panchrysos 201 

18 Bir Umm Fawakhir main settlement, southeast end 203 

19 Buto, mound at Tell el-Fara'in 209 

20 Remains of an Early Dynasty mudbrick building in Layer V at 212 
Buto (Tell el-Fara'in) 

21 Qila' el-Dabba, Balat, Dakhla Oasis: mastaba tomb of Ima- 256 
Pepi I, courtyard 

22 Qila' el-Dabba, Balat, Dakhla Oasis: mastaba tomb of Ima- 257 
Pepi I, substructures 

23 Plan of excavated remains at Ismat el-Kharab, Dakhla Oasis 262 

24 Plan of Queen Hatshepsut's temple, Deir el-Bahri 277 

25 The temple at Dendera 299 

26 Wooden model of house and garden from the tomb of Meket- 304 
Re at Deir el-Bahri (from H.E.Winlock) 

27 Representation of Djehuty-Nefer's house in his tomb in 306 
western Thebes (TT 104) and its interpretation (from 

28 Plan of the Nubian fort at Dorginarti, Levels III and IV 309 

29 Dynastic stone blades, late Predynastic to New Kingdom 312 

30 Temple of Satet, Elephantine: lst/2nd Dynasties (left), 4th/5th 336 
Dynasties (right) 

31 Plan of Elephantine in the 1st Dynasty 337 

32 Plan of Elephantine in the Middle Kingdom 339 

33 Plan of Elephantine in the New Kingdom 340 

34 Plan of Elephantine in the Graeco-Roman period 341 

35 The enclosure wall of Elkab and its immediate surroundings 346 

36 Reconstruction of the Gebel Barkal temples 388 

37 Map of the site of Gebel el-Haridi, with enlargement showing 391 
the mudbrick settlement on the lower slopes of Abu el-Nasr 
(possibly a fortified monastery) 

38 Gebel Zeit, plan of Mine 399: the three main levels 401 

39 Tomb of Queen Hetepheres at Giza: detail of the butterfly- 406 
pattern bracelets as discovered lying in her jewelry box in 1926 

40 Drawing of the reconstructed contents of the tomb of Queen 407 
Hetepheres at Giza 

41 Mortuary temple of Khafre's pyramid complex 410 

42 Diorite statue of Khafre found in the valley temple 411 

43 Valley temple and Sphinx Temple of Khafre 's pyramid 413 

44 The Giza pyramids 414 

45 Cross-section plan of Khufu's pyramid tomb at Giza 415 

46 Plan of King Menkaure's pyramid complex at Giza 420 

47 Alabaster statue of King Menkaure 421 

48 Tombs of Giza artisans 426 

49 Gurob, New Kingdom settlement and northern cemeteries 430 

50 Location of Akhenaten's Gm-p3-itn temple at East Karnak 472 

51 Karnak, plan of the Montu precinct 474 

52 Karnak, precinct of Mut 478 

53 Plan of the temple of Amen-Re, Karnak 482 

54 Theban necropolis, western part of the Late period necropolis 522 
at el-Asasif 

55 A typical tomb of the 26th Dynasty at el-Asasif (belonging to 524 
Ankh-Hor, High Steward of the Divine Votaress) 

56 A typical tomb of the 26th Dynasty at Saqqara (belonging to 525 
Amen-Tefnakht, Commander of the Recruits of the Royal 

57 Plan of the temple of Luxor 542 

58 Ma'adi pottery 550 

59 King Herihor offering ma'at to Khonsu 554 

60 Map of Lake Maryut/Mareotis, showing the location of Marea 560 

61 Plan of Marea waterfront (by Thomas Boyd) 561 

62 Plan of structures on Bates's Island, Marsa Matruh 565 

63 Central Marsa Matruh and the eastern lagoon system as far east 567 
as Ras Alam el-Rum 

64 Medamud: A, types of bread molds found at the site; B, plan of 574 
the First Intermediate Period temple; C, plan of the Middle 
Kingdom temple 

65 Medamud: plan of the Graeco-Roman period temple 576 

66 The monuments at Medinet Habu, overall plan 580 

67 View of the western cemetery at Giza, taken from the top of 595 
the Great Pyramid 

68 Basic elements of a typical Old Kingdom mastaba tomb 597 

69 Plan of the Neolithic site of Merimde 605 

70 Plan of the site of Meroe and its cemeteries 610 

71 Plan of the Northern "Royal Cemetery" (Beg N) at Meroe 612 

72 Conjectural restoration of pyramids Beg N 11, Beg N 12 and 613 
Beg N 13 at Meroe 

73 Map of the city of Meroe 618 

74 Plan of the "Sun Temple" complex at Meroe 621 

75 "Elite" burial of the 1st Dynasty at Minshat Abu Omar with 638 
two chambers; the larger chamber had been robbed (Tomb 


76 Mons Porphyrites, settlements and quarries 641 

77 Wooden model boat with crew, intended for the tomb owner to 645 
sail south (upstream) with the wind. There was also a wooden 
model rowing boat in this tomb, for traveling north 
(downstream). From the Tomb of Two Brothers, Rifa, 12th 
Dynasty, circa 1900 BC 

78 X-ray of King Siptah, demonstrating poliomyelitis (left leg) 651 

79 X-ray of Queen Nodjme, revealing a sacred heart scarab and 652 
amulets of the four sons of Horus within the mummy 

80 Anthropoid coffins of the two brothers, Khnum-Nakht and 656 
Nekht-Ankh. These finely painted wood coffins are good 
examples of the geometric style of decoration popular in the 
Middle Kingdom. The inscription down the front of each gives 

the funerary menu. From the Tomb of Two Brothers, Rifa, 12th 

81 Panel portrait of a man, originally placed over the mummy's 658 
face, showing the clothing and hairstyle fashionable during the 
Graeco-Roman period. From Hawara 

82 Map of Naga ed-Deir sites, circa 1900 666 

83 Petrie's Predynastic sites in the Nagada region 671 

84 Stages in the manufacture of a Predynastic bifacial knife 684 

85 Predynastic stone tools 685 

86 Lower Paleolithic handax (from Bir Tarfawi, Western Desert) 723 

87 Middle Paleolithic flake-tools (a, c, e) and Levallois flakes (b, 724 
d, f-h) (from Bir Tarfawi, Western Desert) 

88 Upper Paleolithic blade-tools and and flake-tools (from a site 726 
near Edfu) 

89 Late Paleolithic bladelet-tools (from a site near Esna) 727 

90 Late Paleolithic ostrich eggshell, ground stone and bone tools 728 
(from Wadi Kubbaniya) 

91 Sites of the Persian period in Egypt 740 

92 Subterranean chambers showing wall paintings and engaged 824 
statuary, tomb of Queen Meresankh III at Giza (G 7530-7540) 

93 Decorated class pot with scenes of boats, ostriches and the 831 
"Nagada plant" 

94 Map of the Eastern Desert with principal routes and emporia, 835 
on both the Nile and the Red Sea 

95 Wall reliefs in the tomb of General Horemheb in the New 850 
Kingdom necropolis at Saqqara 

96 The tomb of Iniuia in the New Kingdom cemetery, Saqqara 851 

97 1st and 2nd Dynasty tombs at North Saqqara 856 

98 Model of Zoser's Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara 860 

99 Cross-section of Zoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara, showing the 863 
different stages of construction 

100 Map of the sacred animal necropolis, Saqqara 870 

101 Plan of Serapeum Saqqara 873 

102 Map of the monuments and inscriptions at Serabit el-Khadim, 882 

103 Relief of a ship from a pyramid temple of Sahure, 5th Dynasty 891 

104 North Sinai, granary at New Kingdom site BEA-10 898 

105 Location of Siwa Oasis and the Qattara Depression in the 901 
Western Desert 

106 Archaeological plan of the area from Aghurmi to Ubayda 903 

107 Relief in the Umm 'Ubaydah temple, Siwa Oasis: processions 904 
of gods and King Wenamen wearing the Libyan chief's ostrich 
feather headdress and kneeling in front of the shrine of Amen 

108 An 18th Dynasty representation of the stone vessel drilling and 915 
boring tool 

109 Tell el-Amarna, general plan and city limits 932 

110 Tell el-Amarna, plan of the central city zone 933 

111 Tell el-Amarna, Stela N 935 

112 Tell el-Amarna, restored plan of the Great Temple sanctuary 936 

113 Tell el-Amarna, plan of the house of Hatiay, Overseer of the 938 
King's Works 

114 Sketch of the three successive fortresses at Tell el-Herr (1988) 957 

115 Royal funerary temples in West Thebes 998 

116 A, Medinet Habu, 18th Dynasty temple; B, Funerary temple of 1001 
Tuthmose II 

117 Funerary temple of Hatshepsut 1002 

118 Funerary temple of Tuthmose III 1002 

119 Funerary temple of Seti I 1003 

120 Funerary temple of Ramesses II 1003 

121 Funerary temple of Ramesses III 1004 

122 Thebes, el-Tarif, potsherds from the Tarifian layer, sixth 1012 
millennium BC 

123 Plan of Tomb KV5, Valley of the Kings, Thebes 1019 

124 Thebes, the Valley of the Queens, plan of tombs in the main 1022 

125 Predynastic and Early Dynastic cemeteries in the Ma'adi-Tura 1043 

126 Plan of the tomb of Tutankhamen 1047 

127 Remains of the Sadd el-Kafara dam in the Wadi Garawi in 1059 
1982 (view from upstream) 

128 Upstream face of the northern wall (right bank of the wadi) 1061 

129 Location of recorded scripts at Wadi Maghara, Sinai 1073 

Map of Egypt showing sites described 
in this work 

1 Abu Gurab 

2 Abu Roash 

3 Abu Sha'ar 

4 Abusir 

5 Abydos 

6 el-Ada'ima 

7 Akhmim 

8 Antinoopolis 

9 Apis 

10 Armant 

11 Asyut 

12 el-Badari 

13 Balabish 

14 Behbeit el-Hagara 

15 Beni Hasan 

16 Berenike 

17 Berenike Panchrysos 

18 Bir Umm Fawakhir 

19 Busiris 

20 Buto 

21 Dahshur 

22 Dakhla 

23 Deir el-Ballas 

24 Deir el-Bersha 

25 Dendera 

26 Dorginarti 

27 Edfu 

28 Farafra part of region 

29 Farafra part of region 

30 Fayum 

31 Gebel Barkal 

32 Gebel el-Haridi 

33 Gebel el-Silsila 

34 Gebel Zeit 

35 Gebelein 

36 Gurob 

37 Hatnub 

38 Hawara 

39 Helwan 

40 Heracleopolis 

41 Hierakonpolis 

42 Hu/Hiw 

43 Kafr Tarkhan 

44 Kerma 

45 Kharga Oasis 

46 Kom Abu Bello 

47 Kom el-Hisn 

48 Kom Ombo 

49 el-Kurru 

50 Lahun 

51 el-Lisht 

52 Mama 

53 Mazghuna 

54 Meir 

55 Mendes 

56 Meydum 

57 Mons Porphyrites 

58 Naga ed-Deir 

59 Nagada 

60 Naukratis 

61 Nuri 

62 el-Omari 

63 Oxyrhynchus 

64 Philae 

65 Qantir/Pi-Ramesses 

66 Qasr Ibrim 

67 Qau el-Kebir (Antaeopolis) 

68 Quft 

70 Quseir el-Qadim 

71 Sanam 

72 Saqqara 

73 Seila 

74 Serabit el-Khadim 

75 Sikait-Zubara 

76 Siwa Oasis 

77 Tanis 

78 Taposiris Magna 

79 Tell el-Amarna 

80 Tell Basta 

81 Tell ed-Dab'a 

82 Tell el-Farkha 

83 Tell el-Herr 

84 Tell el-Mashkuta 

85 Tell el-Muqdam 

86 Tell el-Yahudiya 

87 Thebes, Qurnet Murai 

88 Thebes, Sheikh Abd el-Qurna 

89 Thmuis 

90 Tod 

91 Tukh el-Qaramus 

92 Tuna el-Gebel 

93 Tura 

94 Wadi el-Hudi 

95 Wadi Garawi 

96 Wadi Gasus 

97 Wadi Hammamat 

98 Wadi Abu Had 

99 Wadi Maghara 

100 Wadi Kubbaniya 

101 Wadi Tumilat 

102 Zawiyet el-Aryan 

103 Baharia 

e*™*^ ,hMopoki .:-ufii) 


f' ■■ 
> HJanafc 






- 5phri 

Map of Cairo showing sites described 
in this work 

■ -^ 


Map of Thebes showing sites 
described in this work 

How to use this Encyclopedia 


The Encyclopedia opens with a map of the region and a chronology which provides a 
context for the material which follows. 

The first section of the Encyclopedia comprises fourteen overview essays. The first 
offers a general introduction and the remaining essays are guides to developments in the 
archaeology of the region in specific historical periods. 

These are followed by more than 300 entries in alphabetical order. These entries 

a important sites 

b thematics on aspects of society or culture 

c archaeological practices 

d biographies of famous Egyptologists 

e buildings 

f geographical features 

See also references at the end of each entry will lead you to related topics. 

There is also a list of further reading following each entry, which includes foreign- 
language sources as well as references available in English. 

Stylistic features 

The following stylistic features have been employed in the Encyclopedia: 

a metric measurements, such as km, m, cm and so on. 
b BC/AD not BCE/ACE. 

c Entries are listed by their most familiar place name. Sometimes this is the Greek name 
for the town, e.g. Hierakonpolis; sometimes it is the modern Arabic name for the 
(nearby) town, e.g. Nagada. Please use the index for guidance on alternative names. 

d transliteration of Egyptian words, for example, hwt , 


Work on this book began in 1991 at the instigation of Kennie Lyman, and many friends 
and colleagues were helpful in its undertaking. I would first like to thank all contributors 
who wrote their entries in a timely manner, and those who cheerfully volunteered to write 
several entries, especially Manfred Bietak, Ed Brovarski, Karl Butzer, Rosalie David, 
Rodolfo Fattovich, Abdel Monem Gomaa, Zahi Hawass, Christian Holzl, Timothy 
Kendall, Leonard and Barbara Lesko, Peter Der Manuelian, Bill Peck, Friederike Kampp 
Seyfried, Steve Sidebotham, Stephen Thompson, Rob Wenke, Bruce Williams, Frank 
Yurco, and the late I. E.S.Edwards, with whom I had the great privilege to engage in a 
correspondence that was both educational and enjoyable. 

This volume could not have been finished without the editing assistance of Steven 
Blake Shubert, who, although he came in on the project at a late date, worked with much 
dedication and a good eye for details. Steven's cheerfulness and reliability are greatly 
appreciated. Harry C. Broadhead helped Steven with logistical support. A number of 
professors and former graduate students in the Department of Near Eastern Studies, 
University of Toronto, where I studied Egyptian archaeology, were supportive and 
pleased to contribute to this volume. 

Richard Fazzini and Donald Redford graciously served as project advisors and also 
suggested the names of possible contributors. Suggestions for contributors were also 
provided by Christian and Heike Guksch, Barry Kemp, Leonard and Barbara Lesko, and 
Bruce Trigger. The late Bernard Bothmer offered encouragement to the project in its 
early stages. Janet Johnson and Donald Whitcomb were helpful in discussions as the 
project evolved. Tim Kendall suggested that Nubian sites should also be included in the 
encyclopedia, and while a number of Nubian sites are missing, some of the major ones 
that are relevant to the culture of ancient Egypt can be found in this volume. Aslihan 
Yener and Paul Goldberg were helpful in explaining some of the technical details in the 
entry on mining at Gebel Zeit. 

Translations of several entries were done by Benjamin Clark and Steven Shubert 
(French), Alexandra O'Brien (German) and Rodolfo Fattovich (Italian). 

At Boston University, technical help with computer files was provided by Qadeer 
Hassan, Sarah Mascia, Ann-Eliza Lewis and Ben Thomas. John Ziemba and Lea Koonce 
cheerfully sent many faxes for me. My colleagues in the Department of Archaeology and 
the African Studies Center, Farouk El-Baz in the Center for Remote Sensing, and a 
number of my students were encouraging and interested in the project. 

During my sabbatical leave at the University of Chicago in 1995-96, the project 
benefitted from discussions with colleagues at the Oriental Institute, and the help of 
Chuck Jones in the Oriental Institute Archives. My thanks to the Oriental Institute for 
allowing me to be there as a visiting scholar so that much of this project could be 

Diep and Peter Shoemaker provided last-minute help with files, as did Rodolfo 
Fattovich with a number of entries and contributors. Sidney Kramer was very helpful in 
getting Routledge involved in the project. At Routledge, Senior Editors Fiona Cairns and 
Denise Rea were thoughtful, dedicated, and very pleasant to work with via e-mail. 

Without the help of these friends and colleagues this volume could not have been 
completed. The end result, of course, is my own responsibility, and although there are 
certainly lacunae in the list of entries, I hope it will provide a useful reference and 
overview to all those interested in the wonderful things of ancient Egypt. 


List of abbreviations 






















Agyptologische Abhandlungen, Wiesbaden 

African Archaeological Review 

Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 

American Journal of Archaeology 

Annales du Service des Antiquites de I'Egypte, Caire 

Archaologische Veroffentlichungen, Deutsches 
Archaologisches Institut, Abteilung Kairo 

British Archaeological Reports, Oxford 

Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 

Bibliotheque d'Etude, Institut francais d'archeologie 
orientale, Caire 

Beitrage zur agyptischen Bauforschung und 
Altertumskunde, Kairo, Zurich, Wiesbaden 

Bulletin of the Egyptological Seminar, New York 

Bulletin de I'lnstitut d'Egypte, Caire 

Bulletin de I'lnstitut frangais d'archeologie orientale, 

Bulletin de la Societe francais d'egyptologie, Paris 

Current Anthropology 

Cambridge Archaeological Journal 

Chronique d'Egypte, Bruxelles 

Cahier de Recherches de I'lnstitut de Papyrologie et 
d'Egyptologie de Lille 

Denkschrift der Osterreichischen Akademie der 
Wissenschaften in Wien, Phil.-hist. Klasse 

Fouilles de I'lnstitut frangais d'archeologie orientale, 

Gottinger Miszellen, Gottingen 

Hildesheimer Agyptologische Beitrage, Hildesheim 
























Israel Exploration Journal, Jerusalem 

Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 

Journal of the American Oriental Society 

Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 

Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 

Journal of Field Archaeology 

Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 

Journal of Near Eastern Studies 

Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 

Journal of World Prehistory 

Lexikon der Agyptologie, ed. W.Helck and W.Westendorf, 

Liverpool Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology 

Muncher Agyptologische Studien, Berlin, Munich 

Memoires piblis par les Membres de I'Institut francais 
d'archeologie orientale du Caire 

Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archdologischen Instituts, 
Abteilung Kairo 

Metropolitan Museum of Art Journal 

Newsletter of the American Research Center in Egypt 

Oriental Institute Publications, University of Chicago 

Revue d'Egyptologie 

Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization, Chicago: The 
Oriental Institute Press 

Sanderschrift des Deutschen Arhaologischen Instituts, 
Abteilung, Kairo, Mainz 

World Archaeology 

Zeitschrift fur Agyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde, 
Leipzig, Berlin 

List of contributors 

Barbara Adams 

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London 

Matthew Adams 

University Museum, University of Pennsylvania 

Shmuel Ah'*" 

Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel 

David A.Anderson 

University of Pittsburgh 

Robert Anderson 

Wendy Anderson 

McGill University 

George Armelagos 

Emory University 

David Aston 

Austrian Archaeological Institute, Cairo 

John Baines 

Oriental Institute, University of Oxford 

Barbara E.Barich 

University of Rome "La Sapienza" 

Farouk EI-Baz 

Centre for Remote Sensing, Boston University 

Robert Bianchi 

Manfred Bietak 

Institute of Egyptology, University of Vienna 

Edward Bleiberg 

Brooklyn Museum of Art 

Ann Bomann 

American Schools of Oriental Research 

Douglas Brewer 

The Spurlock Museum, University of Illinois 

Edwin Brock 

Canadian Institute in Egypt 

Edward Brovarski 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 

Stanley Burstein 

California State University, Los Angeles 

Karl W.Butzer 

University of Texas, Austin 

Georges Castel 

Instituit Francais d'Archeologie Oriental, Cairo 

Alfredo Castiglioni 

Centro Ricerche sul Deserto Orientale, Italy 

Angelo Castiglioni 

Centro Ricerche sul Deserto Orientale, Italy 

Sylvie Cauville 

Angela E. Close 

University of Washington 

Eugene Cruz-Uribe 

Northern Arizona University 

Elvira D'Amicone 

Museum of Ancient Egypt, Turin 

Rosalie David 

Manchester Museum, University of Manchester 

Leo Depuydt 

Brown University 

William Dever 

University of Arizona 

Aidan Dodson 

University of Bristol 

Anna Maria Donadoni Roveri 

Museum of Ancient Egypt, Turin 

Peter Dorman 

University of Chicago, Luxor 

Giinter Dreyer 

Germany Archaeological Institute, Cairo 

Margaret Drower 
Dieter Eigner 

Josef Eiwanger 

Kommission fur Allgemeine und Vergleichende Archaologie des Deutschen 
Archaologischen Instituts, Bonn 

Christopher Ellis 

Rodolfo Fattovich 

Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples 

Christine Favard-Meeks 

Richard A.Fazzini 

Brooklyn Museum of art 

Erika Feucht 

Institute of Egyptology, Heidelberg 

Renee Friedman 

British Museum, London 

Creighton Gabel 

Boston University 

Luc Gabolde 

CNRS. Centre Franco-Egyptien de Karnak 

Giinther Garbrecht 

Technical University of Braunschweig 

Achilles Gautier 

University of Gent 

Jeremy Geller 

Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New York 

Ogden Goelet 

New York University 

Jean-Claude Golvin 

Centre national de la Recherche Scientifique, France 

Farouk Goniaa 

Institute of Egyptology, University of Tubingen 

Darlene Gorzo 

University of Toronto 

Arvid Gottlicher 

Lynda Green 

Royal Ontario Museum 

Christian Guksch 

Kirgisische Staatliche National Universitat 

M.Nabil El Hadidi 

Cairo University Herbarium 

Gerhard Haeny 

Donald Hansen 

New York University 

James Harris 

University of Michigan 

Stephen P.Harvey 

Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore 

Ali Hassan 

Fekri Hassan 

Institute of Archaeology, University College London 

Zahi Hawass 

Joyce Haynes 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 

Lisa Heidorn 

University of Helsinki 

Wolfgang Helck 

Stan Hendrickx 

University of Leuven 

Sharon Herbert 

University of Michigan 

Anja Herold 

Pelizaeus-Museum, Hildesheim 

Friedrich W.Hinkel 

James Hoffmeier 

Wheaton College, Illinois 

John S.Holladay, Jr. 

University of Toronto 

Diane Holmes 

Christian Holzl 

Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 

Colin Hope 

Monash University 

Mark Horton 

David Jeffreys 

Institute of Archaeology, University College London 

Janet H.Johnson 

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago 
Michael Jones 

Werner Kaiser 

German Institute of Arcaeology, Cairo 

Friederike Kampp-Seyfried 

Institute of Egyptology, Heidelberg 

Janice Kamrin 

Naguib Kanawati 

Australian Centre for Egyptology, Macquarie University 

Timothy Kendall 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 

Christopher Kir by 

Kings College, London 

Wojciech Kolataj 

Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology, Cairo 

Janusz K.Kozlowski 

Institute of Archaeology, Jagellonian University 

Karla Kroeper 

Agyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Berlin 

Klaus-Peter Kuhlmann 

German Institute of Archaeology, Cairo 

Dieter Kurth 

Institute of Archaeology, University of Hamburg 

Peter Lacovara 

Emory University 

John Larson 

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago 

Jean-Philippe Lauer 

Centre national de la Recherche Scientifique, France 

Anthony Leahy 

University of Birmingham 

Christian Leblanc 

Louvre Museum, France 

Jean Leclant 

Cabinet d'Egyptologie, College de France 

Mark Lehner 

Semitic Museum, Harvard University 

Albert Leonard, Jr. 

University of Arizona 

Ronald Leprohon 

University of Toronto 

Barbara Lesko 

Brown University 

Leonard Lesko 

Brown University 

Jadwiga Lipinska 

Muzeum Naradowe, Warsaw 

Mario Liverani 

University of Rome, Italy 

Alan B.Lloyd 

University College of Swansea 

Antonio Loprieno 

University of California, Los Angeles 

Nancy C.Lovell 

University of Alberta 

Demetra Makris 

University of Toronto 

Peter Der Manuelian 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 

Karl Martin 

Institute of Archaeology, University of Hamburg 

Eva Martin-Pardey 

Institute of Archaeology, University of Hamburg 

Valerie Maxfield 

University of Southampton 

Murray McClellan 

Boston University 

Mary M.A.McDonald 

University of Calgary 

Carol Meyer 

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago 

Beatrix Midant-Reynes 

Centre d'Anthropogie, Toulouse, France 

Stella Miller 

Bryn Mawr College 

Anthony Mills 

James O.Mills 

University of Florida 

Bodil Mortensen 

Doha Mahmoud Mostafa 

James Muhly 

American School of Classical Studies, Athens 

Greg Mumford 

University of Toronto 

William Murnane 

Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology, University of Memphis 

Paul Nicholson 

University of Wales, Cardiff 

Edward L.Ochsenschlager 

Brooklyn College, The City University of New York 

David O'Connor 

Institute of Fine Arts, New York University 

Eliezer D.Oren 

Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel 

Patricia Paice 

University of Toronto 

David Peacock 

University of Southampton 

William H.Peck 

Detroit Institute of Arts 

Peter Piccione 

University of Charleston, South Carolina 

Rosanna Pirelli 

Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples 

Patricia Podzorski 

P A.Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley 

Federico Poole 

Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples 

Georges Pouit 

Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minieres and Centre National de la Recherche 
Scientifique, Paris 

Edgar B.Pusch 

Pelizaeus-Museum, Hildesheim 

Sarah Quie 

John D.Ray 

University of Cambridge 

Donald Redford 

Pennsylvania State University 

Carol Redmount 

University of California, Berkeley 

Jean Revez 

Universite de Paris-Sorbonne ans Universite du Quebec a Montreal 

Janet Richards 

Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan 

Catharine H.Roehrig 

Metropolitan Museum, New York 

Vincent Rondot 

CNRS. Institut de Papyrologie et d'Egyptologie, University of Lille 

Pamela Russell 

Boston University 

Abdel Monem Sayed 

University of Alexandria 

Hans D.Schneider 

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden 

Alan Schulman 

Jiirgen Seeher 

German Institute of Archaeology, Istanbul 

Stephan Seidlmayer 

Agyptologisches Seminar, Free University of Berlin 

Ian Shaw 

Institute of Archaeology, University College London 

Steven Blake Shubert 

University of Toronto 

Steven Sidebotham 

University of Delaware 

Mark Smith 

Oriental Institute, University of Oxford 

Steven Snape 

University of Liverpool 

Georges Soukiassian 

Institut Francais d'Archeologie Orientale, Cairo 

Jeffrey Spencer 

British Museum 

Denys A. Stocks 

University of Manchester 

Sally Swain 

Tarek Swelim 

Cairo, Egypt 

Ana Tavares 

University College London 

Emily Teeter 

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago 

Aristide Theodoridest 
Stephen E.Thompson 

Andreas Tillmann 

Bayer. Landesamt fiir Denkmalpflege, Ingolstadt 

Laszlo Torok 

Institute of Archaeology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences 

Joyce Tyldesley 

Liverpool University 

Eric Uphill 

University College London 

Dominique Valbelle 

Institut de Papyrologie et d'Egyptologie, University of Lille III 

Michel Valloggia 

University of Geneva 

Charles Van Siclen 

Van Siclen Books, San Antonio 

William Ward 

Thomas von der Way 

German Institute of Archaeology, Cairo 

Kent R.Weeks 

American University in Cairo 

Josef Wegner 

University Museum, University of Pennsylvania 

James Weinstein 

Cornell University 

Fred Wendorf 

Southern Methodist University 

Robert Wenke 

University of Washington 

Wilma Wetterstrom 

Botanical Museum, Harvard University 

Donald Whitcomb 

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago 

Donald White 

University Museum, University of Pennsylvania 

Terry Wilf ong 

Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan 

Toby A.H.Wilkinson 

University of Durham 

Harco Willems 

University of Leiden 

Bruce Williams 

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago 

Elsbeth Williams 

Marcia F.Wiseman 

Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto at Scarborough, and Department 
of Near Eastern and Asian Civilization (Egyptian Section), Royal Ontario Museum 

Frank J.Yurco 

Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago 

Chronology of Ancient Egypt 


Lower Paleolithic, circa 700/500,000-200,000 BP 

Middle Paleolithic, circa 200,000-45,000 BP 
Upper Paleolithic, circa 35,000-21,000 BP 
Late Paleolithic, circa 21,000-12,000 BP 
Epi-paleolithic, circa 12,000-8,000 BP 

Neolithic, northern Egypt: begins circa 5200 BC 

Predynastic period: 

Ma'adi culture, northern Egypt, 

circa 4000-3300/3200 BC 

Badarian culture, Middle Egypt, 

circa 4500-3800 BC 

Nagada culture, southern Egypt: 

Nagada I, circa 4000-3600 BC 

Nagada II, circa 3600-3200 BC 

Nagada Ill/Dynasty 0, circa 3200-3050 BC 

Early Dynastic period: 

1st Dynasty, circa 3050-2890 BC: 







2nd Dynasty, circa 2890-2686 BC: 







Old Kingdom: 

3rd Dynasty, circa 2686-2613 BC: 




4th Dynasty, circa 2613-2494 BC: 








5th Dynasty, circa 2494-2345 BC: 










6th Dynasty, circa 2345-2181 BC: 


Pepi II 

First Intermediate Period: 

7th-8th Dynasties, circa 2181-2125 BC: 

circa 16 kings 

9th-10th Dynasties (Heracleopolis), circa 2160-2025 BC: 

circa 18 kings 

11th Dynasty, pre-unification Thebes, circa 2125-2055 BC: 

Mentuhotep I Intef II 

Intef I Intef III 

Middle Kingdom: 

11th Dynasty, unification, circa 2055-1985 BC: 

Mentuhotep II Mentuhotep IV 

Mentuhotep III 

12th Dynasty, circa 1985-1795 BC: 

Amenemhat I Amenemhat III 

Senusret I 
Amenemhat II 
Senusret II 

Amenemhat IV 
Queen Sobekneferu 

Second Intermediate Period: 

13th Dynasty, circa 1795-1650 BC: 

circa 65 kings, including: 

Sobekhotep III 
Neferhotep I 

Sihathor I 
Sihathor II 
Sobekhotep IV 
Neferhotep III 

14th Dynasty, circa 1750-1650 BC: 

Possibly up to 76 kings who ruled from Sais in the Delta and overlapped with the 13th 
and 15th Dynasties. 

15th Dynasty (Hyksos), circa 1650-1550 BC: 

Salitis Apophis 

Khayan Khamudi 

16th Dynasty (Hyksos), circa 1650-1550 BC: 

circa 17 minor kings/Hyksos vassals who overlapped with the 15th Dynasty. 

17th Dynasty (Thebes), circa 1650-1550 BC: 

circa 14 kings, the last four of which were: 

Intef VI 

Ta'o II 

New Kingdom: 

18th Dynasty, circa 1550-1295 BC: 

Ahmose Tuthmose IV 

Amenhotep I Amenhotep III 

Tuthmose I Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten (Amarna period) 

Tuthmose II Smenkhkare 

Tuthmose III Tutankhamen 

Hatshepsut Ay 

Amenhotep II Horemheb 

Ramesside period: 

19th Dynasty, circa 1295-1186 BC: 

Ramesses I Amenmesses 

Seti I Seti II 

Ramesses II Siptah 

Merenptah Queen Tawosret 

20th Dynasty, circa 1186-1069 BC: 


Ramesses III 
Ramesses IV 
Ramesses V 

Ramesses VI 
Ramesses VII 
Ramesses VIII 
Ramesses IX 
Ramesses X 
Ramesses XI 

Third Intermediate Period: 

21st Dynasty (Tanis), circa 1069-945 BC: 


Psusennes I 
Osorkon the Elder 
Psusennes II 

22nd Dynasty (Libyan), circa 945-735 BC: 

Sheshonk I 

Osorkon I 
Sheshonk II 
Takelot I 
Osorkon II 
Takelot II 
Sheshonk III 
Sheshonk V 

Theban kings, circa 818-730 BC: 

Pedubast I 

Input I 
Sheshonk IV(?) 

Osorkon III 
Takelot III 


23rd Dynasty (Libyan), circa 735-710 BC: 

Pedubast II 

Osorkon IV 

Local dynasties, circa 730 BC: 

Thotemhat and Nimlot (Hermopolis) 

Peftjauawybast (Heracleopolis) 
Input II (Leontopolis) 

24th Dynasty, circa 727-715 BC: 


25th Dynasty (Kushite), circa 760-653 BC: 







Late period: 

26th Dynasty (Saite), circa 664-525 BC: 


Psamtik I 
Neko II 
Psamtik II 

Psamtik III 

27th Dynasty (Persian), circa 525-404 BC: 


Darius I 
Xerxes I 
Artaxerxes I 
Darius II 
Artaxerxes II 

28th Dynasty, circa 404-399 BC: 


29th Dynasty, circa 399-380 BC: 

Nepherites I 

Nepherites II 

30th Dynasty, circa 380-343 BC: 

Nectanebo I 

Nectanebo II 

31st Dynasty (Persian), circa 343-332 BC: 

Artaxerxes III 

Darius III 

Ptolemaic period, circa 332-32 BC: 


Alexander the Great 

Philip Arrhidaeus 
Alexander IV 

Ptolemaic Dynasty: 

Ptolemy I Soter I 

Ptolemy II Philadelphus 
Ptolemy III Evergetes 
Ptolemy IV Philopator 
Ptolemy V Epiphanes 
Ptolemy VI Philometor 
Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator 
Ptolemy VIII Evergetes II 
Ptolemy IX Soter II 
Ptolemy X Alexander I 
Ptolemy IX Soter II (again) 
Ptolemy XI Alexander II 
Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos 
Cleopatra VII Philopator 
Ptolemy XIII 
Ptolemy XIV Caesarion 

Roman period 

Begins after the defeat of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony at the Battle of 
Actium in 31 BC, when Egypt became a Roman province. 

Coptic period 

From the defeat of the Roman emperor Maxentius by Constantine I in AD 312, 
when Christian persercution ended in the Roman empire, to the Arab invasion 
of Egypt in AD 639. 


Geographic and chronological scope of Egyptian archaeology 

Kemet, the "black land," was the name the ancient Egyptians gave to their state. The 
"black land" of the fertile floodplain along the lower Nile Valley was differentiated from 
the barren "red land" of the deserts to either side of the valley. Beginning around 3100- 
3000 BC, a unified state stretched along the Nile from Aswan at the First Cataract to the 
Delta coast along the Mediterranean Sea, a distance of over 1,000km downriver. This was 
the kingdom of ancient Egypt, ruled by a king and his centralized administration during 
the periods of political stability known as the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms. 

Ancient Egypt was the land of the lower Nile Valley. This is a much smaller region 
than what comprises the modern country of the Arab Republic of Egypt, which includes 
the region south of the First Cataract to 22° N, the huge desert to the west of the Nile to 
the Libyan border, the desert to the east of the Nile bordered by the Red Sea, and the 
Sinai peninsula to the Israeli border. 

Because the Nile flows from south to north, southern Egypt beginning at the First 
Cataract is called "Upper Egypt," and northern Egypt, including the Cairo region and the 
Delta, is called "Lower Egypt." The region between Upper and Lower Egypt is 
sometimes called "Middle Egypt," and consists of the Nile Valley north of the bend in the 
river at Qena and Nag Hammadi to the region of the Fayum. The main geographic feature 
of the Fayum is a large lake, now called Birket Qarun, which was much larger when 
wetter conditions prevailed in the early to middle Holocene (circa 12,000 to 5,000 years 

The major geographic feature of Egypt is, of course, the Nile River and the fertile 
floodplains to either side. North of Cairo the main channel of the Nile branches off to 
form the Delta, a much more humid region than the Nile Valley. In Dynastic times the 
Delta was much more suitable for cattle pasturage than for large-scale cereal cultivation. 

East of the Nile Delta is the Sinai peninsula, now separated from Africa by the Suez 
Canal and the Gulf of Suez. Mountainous and dry like the Eastern Desert of Egypt, the 
Sinai provided a land route to southwest Asia. To the west of the Nile is the Western 
Desert. Within the Western Desert are a number of oases created by springs, where there 
is evidence of both prehistoric and pharaonic activity. These oases include Siwa, 
Bahariya, Farafra, Kharga and Dakhla. 

To the east of the Nile is the Eastern Desert, also known as the Red Sea Hills because 
it borders the Red Sea. This is a much more mountainous region than the Western Desert, 
with some mountains over 1,200m high. Fresh water is scarce in the Red Sea Hills and 
along the shore of the Red Sea, and this factor greatly limited human habitation there. 
The Eastern Desert was the source of many hard stones used for sculpture and other craft 
goods, and minerals such as copper and gold. 

To the south of the First Cataract in the Nile at Aswan is the land known as Nubia. 
Upper Nubia is now in northern Sudan, and Lower Nubia is the southernmost part of 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 2 

Egypt, between the First and Second Cataracts in the Nile. When the High Dam was built 
at Aswan in the 1950s, the Nile Valley of Lower Nubia became flooded and formed what 
is now called Lake Nasser. Six cataracts block navigation in the Nile in Nubia, from 
Aswan in the north (First Cataract) to the Sixth Cataract located about 100km downriver 
from Khartoum, the capital of Sudan at the confluence of the Blue and White Niles. 
Much of the Nile Valley in Nubia is very narrow, and as a result Nubia did not have the 
great agricultural potential of pharaonic Egypt. 

In terms of the geographic scope of this encyclopedia, not all sites listed as entries are 
within the limits of what the ancient Egyptians considered the land of Egypt. Pharaonic 
sites are found at oases in the Western Desert, and in Upper and Lower Nubia, and 
Roman period sites are located in the Eastern Desert. Much of ancient Nubia's history 
was closely connected to that of Egypt, culminating in Nubian rule in Egypt under the 
kings of the 25th Dynasty. Hence, a number of cultures and sites in Nubia are also 
included in this volume. Although the Sinai peninsula is not a part of ancient Egypt, 
evidence of Egyptian culture is also found there, especially where the ancient Egyptians 
mined copper and turquoise, and relevant sites in the Sinai are also listed. 

By the beginning of the 1st Dynasty ancient Egyptian civilization had emerged, but 
this was preceded by a very long sequence of prehistoric cultural development. Perhaps 
as early as one million years ago there were Paleolithic hunters and gatherers living along 
the Nile. Farming in the lower Nile Valley did not appear until after circa 6000 BC, when 
domesticated cereals were introduced from southwest Asia. Farming had great economic 
potential within the floodplain ecology of the Egyptian Nile Valley, and farming villages 
proliferated along the floodplain. During what is called the Predynastic period, circa 
4000-3000 BC, these farming village societies became more complex, a development 
which culminated in the rise of the early Egyptian state. 

The chronological scope of this encyclopedia includes Egypt's prehistoric past, which 
was an important prelude to pharaonic civilization. Indeed, many cultural developments 
in pharaonic civilization need to be understood from the perspective of their prehistoric 
origins. Pharaonic civilization spanned thirty-one dynasties, some of which were periods 
of strong centralized control, followed by periods of political fragmentation and 
decentralization. During the first millennium BC Egypt was dominated by different 
foreign powers, but the monuments and written language continued a royal tradition 
which had developed over two millennia. With Egyptian conversion to Christianity in the 
fourth century AD, however, the traditions of pharaonic civilization were considered 
pagan and came to an end. Thus, archaeological sites listed in this book do not include 
Coptic ones unless they are ancient sites that continued to be occupied during early 
Christian times. 

Archaeological sites and site preservation 

Archaeological sites in Egypt have often been named after the (Arabic) names of nearby 
villages, or what they have been descriptively termed in Arabic by local villagers. Sites 
are listed in this encyclopedia by their most familiar names, with cross-references in the 
index. For example, the Predynastic site of Hierakonpolis is listed under its Greek name, 
and not the modern Kom el-Ahmar or the ancient Egyptian Nekhen, whereas the 


Predynastic site of Nagada is listed under the name of the nearby village, and not Nubt, 
the ancient Egyptian name of this town. When appropriate, information about specific 
sites is given in topical entries, such as the private tombs of the New Kingdom at 
Saqqara. Very large sites such as Saqqara contained many tombs and monuments built 
over three millennia, and could not be discussed adequately in one entry. 

Much of the archaeological evidence from ancient Egypt comes from sites located on 
the edge of the floodplain or slightly beyond in the low desert. Therefore, much of the 
archaeological evidence is highly specialized, from tombs, temples and mortuary 
complexes, and not from settlements. Undoubtedly, ancient cities, towns and villages 
were once located on higher ground on the floodplain, or along levees next to the river. 
Many earlier sites within the floodplain are now covered by deep alluvial deposits or 
modern villages, and thus cannot be excavated. Continuous cultivation of the floodplain 
for five to six thousand years has undoubtedly destroyed many sites, as have shifts in the 
river and its floodplain. Ancient settlements would also have been located along the edge 
of the floodplain, and some of these have been excavated in this century, but many have 
been partially or wholly destroyed as more recent irrigation has extended cultivation 
beyond the margins of the floodplain. Prehistoric sites located on the low desert above 
the floodplain are usually deflated, a process in which the desert wind has removed 
lighter organic materials and deposits, and the heavier artifacts from different periods, 
mostly potsherds and stone tools, have collapsed onto the desert surface. For a number of 
reasons, then, settlement patterns and changes in these through time are very incomplete 
in the archaeological evidence of ancient Egypt. 

Because of alluviation, continuous cultivation, geological conditions which destroy 
sites, and the present dense occupation along the Nile, ancient settlements in Egypt have 
not been well preserved or are impossible to excavate. Another reason why there is 
relatively little evidence of settlements in Egypt is probably because of earlier 
excavators' priorities. Tombs, temples and royal mortuary complexes were simply of 
greater interest to excavate than settlements which had been disturbed by Egyptian 
farmers digging for sebbakh, organic remains from ancient settlements which is used for 
fertilizer. Much of Egyptian archaeology, therefore, has been concerned with the 
clearance, recording and conservation of tombs and temples. Many of the earlier scholars 
who worked in Egypt were philologists whose interests lay in recording texts, or were 
trained in fine arts and were attracted to the great art and monumental architecture of 
pharaonic Egypt. In any case, earlier archaeologists in Egypt did not have the excavation 
techniques enabling them to understand settlements and their formation processes, with 
the exception of very well-preserved sites such as Akhenaten's capital at Tell el-Amarna. 

Looting has been another factor in the poor preservation of archaeological evidence in 
Egypt. Looting of tombs occurred throughout pharaonic times. To speed construction, 
later kings often used stone blocks from the monuments of earlier kings. The most blatant 
example of this process is the capital city of Tanis in the eastern Nile Delta, where the 
kings of the 21st Dynasty moved granite monuments block by block from the earlier 19th 
Dynasty capital of Pi-Ramesses, founded by Ramesses II. Quarried stones from the Old 
Kingdom pyramids in northern Egypt were used to build monuments in Islamic Cairo. 
Looting of artifacts accelerated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries AD as museums 
and collectors in Europe and North America bought Egyptian antiquities. Unfortunately, 
looting, though illegal, continues in Egypt today. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 4 

Other sources of information 

Because archaeological sites in Egypt can only be understood within their cultural 
context, this encyclopedia includes information about sociopolitical organization, the 
economy, technology, language, religion and so on. Egyptian culture certainly evolved 
and changed over three thousand years, and entries about aspects of Egyptian culture are 
necessarily short, but references are given for where to seek more information. An 
excellent introduction to the sociopolitical organization of ancient Egypt from 
Predynastic times through the Dynastic periods is Ancient Egypt: A Social History by 
B.G.Trigger, B.J.Kemp, D. O'Connor and L.B.Lloyd. 

With the emergence of the Dynastic state, writing was invented, and the evidence of 
written texts has greatly added to our knowledge about the culture of ancient Egypt. 
Ancient Egyptians spoke a language which is today called Egyptian, written in a formal 
script of hieroglyphs ("sacred writing"), and in a simplified cursive script known as 
"hieratic." With the invention of writing, Egyptian culture moves from prehistory to 
history, and in its earliest dynasties ancient Egypt was a literate society. From Early 
Dynastic times information began to be recorded by and about the state. Unfortunately, 
many of these early hieroglyphic texts, aside from names, are difficult to decipher. 

Writing became more widely used in the Old Kingdom, but most of what has been 
preserved is from a mortuary context. Beginning in the Middle Kingdom, however, there 
is much more evidence of writing than just the texts found in tombs. Not only are there 
accounts and records of a highly organized state bureaucracy, but there are letters, legal 
documents, literary texts and texts by specialists in fields such as medicine and 
mathematics. In the New Kingdom an even greater body of textual information recorded 
on papyri and ostraca has been recovered, as well as what is known from tombs and the 
many votive artifacts for the mortuary cult. For the first time, numerous cult temples were 
built of stone, and their walls are covered with reliefs and inscriptions. Following the 
collapse of the New Kingdom state, writing continued to be an important medium of 
communication in the Late period, and there are numerous papyri and temple inscriptions 
from Graeco-Roman times. 

Much of the evidence we have for the use of writing in ancient Egypt is fairly 
specialized, and economic records are much less common in Egypt than in the states of 
Mesopotamia. Royal inscriptions were not an objective record of events, but were written 
to glorify pharaoh and his accomplishments, real or exaggerated. Very few people in 
ancient Egypt ever learned to read or write. Nonetheless, writing inevitably supplements 
what is known about ancient Egypt from the archaeological evidence, especially 
concerning ideology and beliefs. 

Immediately recognizable in Egyptian civilization are formal styles of art and 
architecture. This was a material culture promulgated by the crown and emulated by 
elites in the society. Unfortunately, there is much less information, both archaeological 
and textual, about the working class in Egypt, most of whom were peasant farmers 
conscripted periodically to serve in the army and construct royal monuments and temples. 
Representational evidence, mainly from tombs and temples, but also from artifacts such 
as ostraca, conveys information about Egyptian workers and farmers, as well as other 
sociocultural institutions (especially religion and beliefs about the afterlife). Frequently, 
scenes on the walls of tombs and temples are accompanied by hieroglyphic texts which 


specify the activities depicted, and in this context the textual and pictorial evidence 
complement and enhance each other to convey information. 

Archaeology is the study of the material remains of past cultures within their 
excavated contexts, and as such it deals with evidence which is fragmentary and 
incompletely preserved. But ancient Egypt is rich in different forms of evidence which 
convey information — archaeological, architectural, textual and pictorial — and a synthesis 
of all forms of evidence is needed in order to better understand this remarkable 
civilization in all its complexities. 

The study of ancient Egypt 

The systematic study of ancient Egypt began with the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt in 
1798. Accompanying Napoleon Bonaparte's invading army was a group of savants, 
scholars who recorded ancient Egyptian monuments along with information about the 
culture of Islamic Egypt and the country's natural history. Systematic excavations in 
Egypt, however, did not really begin until the late nineteenth century with the work of 
William Matthew Flinders Petrie. Previous to Petrie's work in Egypt, excavators had 
mainly been interested in sending ancient art and texts back to museums and collectors in 
Europe and North America. Petrie, however, was interested in the study of all artifacts 
that he excavated, and was the first archaeologist to recognize the importance of stylistic 
seriation of ceramics and other artifacts in a relative chronology of periods, which he 
called "Sequence Dating." 

Egyptian archaeology today is studied in several academic disciplines, and scholars 
from a number of disciplines have contributed to this encyclopedia. The most prominent 
of these disciplines is Egyptology, the study of ancient Egypt mainly through the analysis 
of ancient texts, artifacts and architecture. Egyptian texts are studied by philologists and 
historians, and later Egyptian history is of interest to biblical and classical scholars. 
Because ancient Egypt produced so much monumental art and architecture, and private 
tombs in which the walls are covered with paintings and/or reliefs, art history has also 
been an important discipline for studying the culture of ancient Egypt. Anthropologically 
trained archaeologists in the early twentieth century were more interested in ancient 
Egypt from a theoretical perspective in terms of the rise of civilization. However, 
beginning in the 1960s a number of archaeologists trained in anthropology began to work 
in Egypt on the Nubian Salvage campaign, which surveyed, recorded and excavated sites 
in Lower Nubia before they were flooded by Lake Nasser following the construction of 
the High Dam at Aswan. 

Archaeology in Egypt today is conducted under the auspices of the Supreme Council 
of Antiquities, formerly the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (EAO), under the Ministry 
of Culture. Located throughout Egypt are regional offices of the Council, which direct 
excavations by Egyptian-trained archaeologists and oversee fieldwork conducted by 
foreign archaeologists. The cordial cooperation of the Supreme Council of Antiquities 
has made possible the ongoing excavations and current research which are reported here. 


Paleolithic cultures, overview 

The record of the Egyptian Paleolithic is found in two very different areas, the Nile 
Valley and the Sahara. The Nile Valley seems to have been used continuously, or almost 
so, since more than 500,000 years ago. Use of the Sahara, however, was episodic. There 
were long intervals when it was hyperarid, with no trace of human presence, but there 
were also at least seven and probably many more periods of significant rainfall and 
people were present in the Sahara during all of them. 

The Nile is a permanent river, and people lived in its valley no matter how dry the 
adjacent desert. The behavior of the Nile is influenced primarily by the climate in the area 
of its headwaters in the highlands of East Africa, where, during cold glacial maxima, 
there was reduced vegetation cover, more frost action and less rainfall. Thus, there was 
less water in the Nile and the water carried a heavy sediment load, which was deposited 
on the floodplain until the valley became choked with silt. This process occurred at least 
three times during the Middle and Late Pleistocene, with intervening episodes of 
downcutting. In Upper Egypt and Nubia, remnants of these accumulations stand 20-30m 
above the modern floodplain and include many Paleolithic sites. The earliest alluvial 
episode is associated with rare Lower Paleolithic artifacts, the second is late Middle 
Paleolithic, and the third is Late Paleolithic. Other Paleolithic sites occur near rock 
outcrops along the margins of the Valley, and there are a few sites in wadi gravels below, 
between and sometimes within the silt remnants. 

The Nile Valley was not luxuriant during the periods of valley filling. The river was 
much smaller than today and flowed through meandering or braided channels. Large 
animals were limited to wild cattle, hartebeest, gazelle, hippopotamus and, on the east 
bank, wild ass. There were, however, other important food resources: ducks and geese 
were heavily exploited during some periods; fish were used at least from the early Middle 
Paleolithic; and plant foods, particularly marshland tubers and seeds, were important in 
the Late Paleolithic. 

Lower Paleolithic 

Some of the first descriptions (late nineteenth century) of the Paleolithic in Egypt are of 
handaxes found in the Nile Valley. These characteristic Lower Paleolithic tools tend to be 
well made, flaked on both faces, pointed at one end and rounded at the other; 
typologically, they are Late Acheulean. There are no reliable dates for the Egyptian 
Lower Paleolithic, but elsewhere in Africa, the Late Acheulean is believed to begin 
around 500,000 years ago, while 

Paleolithic cultures 7 

Table 1 Correlation of Paleolithic sequence in the 
Nile Valley 

Years B.P. 



10,000 ? 

12,500 Late Paleolithic 

22,000 Upper Paleolithic 

40,000 Khormusan 

70,000 Late Middle Paleolithic 
Early Middle Paleolithic 

200,000 Final Acheulean 

300,000 Late Acheulean 

500,000 Middle Acheulean? 

Early Neolithic 


No known occupation 

Middle Paleolithic 

Final Acheulean 
Late Acheulean 
Middle Acheulean? 

the earliest Middle Paleolithic is dated to about 230,000 years ago. Most of the Lower 
Paleolithic sites in Egypt probably fall within this period; a few sites may be older. 

Some of the most interesting information on the Lower Paleolithic in the Nile Valley 
comes from near Wadi Haifa in northern Sudan, where a series of quarries and 
workshops yielded numerous Acheulean handaxes. Arkin 8, which was embedded in 
wadi sediments on the western edge of the Valley, may be the largest Acheulean site in 
this part of Africa. Although the assemblage is crude (perhaps because many of the tools 
appear to be unfinished), it is classified as Late Acheulean. There are numerous cores 
(none is prepared), chopping tools and handaxes, the last in a variety of shapes. Other 
tools include side-scrapers and notches. Late Acheulean sites also occur in the same area 
on the east bank. The sites were classified as Early, Middle and Late Acheulean on the 
basis of typology, but there is no stratigraphic evidence to support this. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 8 

. .. - 


Figure 1 Locations of published Lower 
Paleolithic sites 

Lower Paleolithic sites are also found in the eastern Sahara, in a variety of settings. At 
Kharga and Dakhla Oases, and Bir Sahara East (about 350km west of Abu Simbel), they 
represent camps at the edge of a spring pool, probably from multiple occupations, 
perhaps over several millennia or more. The sites at Kharga and Dakhla are classified as 
Late Acheulean. The handaxes at the Bir Sahara East site, however, are small, thin and 
well-executed. This site is regarded as Final Acheulean. Another setting used in the 
Saharan Lower Paleolithic was on the edges of ponds and lakes. Two such sites are 
known at Bir Tarfawi, 10km east of Bir Sahara East, both of them Late Acheulean. 
(Middle) Acheulean assemblages were also found stratified in wadi deposits near Bir 
Safsaf, about 50km southeast of Bir Tarfawi. Other Acheulean assemblages have been 
found south of Bir Tarfawi, in an ephemeral lake (playa) and in the large buried channels 
first discovered by ground-penetrating radar. Some of the latter sites may be very old, 
possibly Middle Acheulean. 

In the Sahara, Lower Paleolithic people used almost every setting where there was 
water. None of the sites, either in the desert or along the Nile, has yielded sufficient fauna 
to permit a detailed reconstruction of the environment. There is evidence, however, of 
considerable local rainfall during several intervals. A characteristic of the Acheulean is 
that people always used the nearest available raw material. Tools were made for short- 

Paleolithic cultures 9 

term or immediate purposes and were not taken from one area to another, even if the first 
area had much better raw materials. 

Middle Paleolithic 

The Middle Paleolithic began in Egypt more than 175,000 years ago, and possibly more 
than 200,000 years ago; it may have lasted until around 45,000 years ago. It was during 
the Middle Paleolithic, and probably early in that stage, that the modern form of our 
species first appeared. 

The Egyptian Middle Paleolithic shares the basic elements of the Middle Paleolithic 
throughout North Africa and Europe. Handaxes are absent or very rare, and most of the 
tools are made on flakes, often produced with Levallois technology, where a core was 
prepared in order to produce a flake of a predetermined shape. There are usually quite 
high frequencies of unretouched Levallois flakes, as well as various kinds of side- 
scrapers, denticulates and retouched pieces. Some sites also yield high proportions of 
Upper Paleolithic-type tools, particularly end-scrapers and burins; others contain large, 
bifacially worked, leaf-shaped pieces (foliates), and there are a few sites with tanged or 
stemmed (pedunculated) tools. 

The Egyptian Middle Paleolithic has been traditionally classified into four major 
variants: Nubian Middle Stone Age, Mousterian, Aterian and Khormusan. The 
Khormusan appears to be late and is confined to the Nile Valley. The Aterian is 
essentially restricted to the Sahara, and it too may be late. Apart from this, there are very 
few differences between any of the Middle Paleolithic entities, and they may reflect no 
more than minor differences in behavior; there is no reason to believe that they represent 
self-conscious social entities. 

Middle Paleolithic in the Sahara 

The best data on the Egyptian Middle Paleolithic come from Bir Tarfawi and Bir Sahara 
East. These two basins have a sequence of five Middle Paleolithic wet intervals, with 
permanent lakes, separated by periods of aridity; in Bir Tarfawi there was also a Middle 
Paleolithic playa, which may precede the earliest permanent lake. 

The wet periods occurred between circa 175,000 and 70,000 years ago, and the major 
permanent lakes probably date to the last interglacial period. The lakes reflect local 
rainfall, which resulted from the intensification and northward movement of the tropical 
monsoon. The associated faunal remains indicate that there was perhaps as much as 
500mm of rain a year, and that the lakes existed in a savanna or wooded savanna 
landscape which supported large animals such as rhinoceros, giant buffalo, giraffe, giant 
camel, wild ass and various antelopes and gazelles. Fish were present in the lakes, 
including species that today are found only in the Nile, Chad and Niger basins, evidence 
that the lakes were occasionally part of a regional drainage system. 

There are many Middle Paleolithic sites associated with the lake deposits. They occur 
in a variety of settings, each with distinctive assemblages of artifacts and apparently used 
in different ways. The sites were probably used only during the day because of the danger 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 10 

of large predators near the lakes at night. The night camps are likely to have been on the 
adjacent plateau. The artifacts are made of quartzitic sandstone of various colors and 
textures. Quarries for these materials lie 3-5km east of Bir Tarfawi, where outlines of pits 
and trenches are evident on the surface and the surrounding area is littered with thick 
flakes and other workshop debris, but almost no cores or tools. 

One of the interesting features to emerge from Bir Tarfawi and Bir Sahara East is that 
almost all of the sites were used repeatedly, and evidence suggests that the same activities 
took place during every episode of use. It is clear that even during the early part of the 
Middle Paleolithic, there were well-established patterns of resource exploitation across 
this landscape; patterns that were maintained over the enormous periods of time 
represented in this sequence. Neither significant change nor increasing complexity was 
characteristic of the Middle Paleolithic. Not only did the settlement system and raw 
material economies continue virtually unchanged for more than 100,000 years, but there 
was also no marked improvement in the tools. The only evident changes are the 
appearance of bifacial foliates around 130,000 years ago, and of stemmed tools about 
70,000 years ago. Neither of these is likely to have been a local development. 

There was a somewhat different raw material economy in the Middle Paleolithic of 
Kharga Oasis. Most of the Kharga sites were at spring pools, and the tabular flint cobbles 
preferred as raw material were available in the nearby wadis. The sites contain numerous 
primary flakes and early stage and Levallois core preparation flakes, but few cores and 
tools. The sites are classified as Mousterian or Aterian (indicated by pedunculate tools 
and bifacial foliates), and there is some stratigraphic evidence that the Aterian is the later 
one. The Kharga night camps were probably at a distance from water, but none is known. 
The availability of water and related resources and the proximity of suitable stone seem 
to have been the major features of Middle Paleolithic settlements in the Kharga area. 

Middle Paleolithic along the Nile 

Three different settings were used by Middle Paleolithic groups along the Nile. From 
Wadi Haifa at the Second Cataract to beyond the Qena bend in Upper Egypt, there are 
many quarries and workshops near rock outcrops, usually against the escarpments that 
border the Valley on each side or in gravel benches between the escarpments and the 
river. The debris from the quarries is sometimes buried in colluvial sediments, but none 
of the sites can be tied to the Nilotic sedimentary sequence, and none is dated. The 
quarries have been classified as Nubian Middle Stone Age (in Lower Nubia) or 
Mousterian (in Upper Egypt and Lower Nubia). 

Middle Paleolithic is also found in the silts of the second of the Middle and Late 
Pleistocene episodes of valley filling, which coincided with a period of hyperaridity. 
There is a group of small sites north of Aswan, and another (Site 440, which may be 
Nubian Middle Stone Age) in a dune at the base of the silts just south of Wadi Haifa. Site 
440 had two horizons, both with rich faunas which were mostly wild cattle in the lower 
level and fish in the upper one. The fish include several large, deep-water species, 
suggesting the use of boats, traps or other relatively sophisticated fishing techniques. The 
sites near Aswan are Mousterian. There are five TL (thermoluminescence) dates between 

Paleolithic cultures 1 1 

66,000 and 45,000 BP from the deposits of two of the sites; these are the only dates 
available for the Mousterian in the Nile Valley. 

Near the Second Cataract are several Khormusan sites, which seems to be the most 
recent Middle Paleolithic complex in the Valley. The age of the Khormusan is estimated 
to be between 45,000 and 55,000 years ago. Some Khormusan sites contain abundant 
fauna, mostly wild cattle, with a few hartebeest, gazelle and hippopotamus; other sites are 
rich in fish. The Khormusan stone artifacts are distinctive, with an emphasis on burins, 
plus occasional side-scrapers, end-scrapers and denticulates, all frequently made on 
Levallois flakes. No Khormusan workshops or quarries are known. 

The third Nilotic setting of the Middle Paleolithic is the wadis along the margin of the 
Valley. There are massive terraces of wadi gravels in most of the major wadis that enter 
the Nile on each side; the terraces lie under the silts of the Middle Paleolithic valley 
filling and therefore precede it. All the wadis are now dry, and therefore reflect intervals 
of much greater rainfall than today, which probably coincided with the permanent lakes 
in the Sahara. The very rolled artifacts within the terraces are thus likely to be the same 
age as the Middle Paleolithic artifacts associated with the lakes at Bir Tarfawi and Bir 
Sahara East. 

There are also occasional clusters of Middle Paleolithic artifacts in or on the older 
wadi deposits, and some of them appear to be in situ. One such site, on the eroded surface 
of (and probably post-dating) the older wadi terrace near Aswan is the only known 
Aterian site in the Valley. All of the other sites associated with the older wadi deposits 
are Mousterian. 

Information on the Middle Paleolithic in the Valley is less detailed than that from the 
Sahara, but it is clear that the workshops and quarries along the Nile functioned very 
differently from those in the desert. The Nilotic quarries are often surrounded by debris 
that includes unretouched Levallois flakes, finished tools and cores. This pattern, seen in 
both Upper Egypt and Nubia, indicates that these sites were also workshops for the final 
shaping and exploitation of cores and for some tool manufacture (unlike the quarries at 
Bir Tarfawi, where only initial shaping was done). 

The Middle Paleolithic in the Sahara ended when hyperaridity made the desert 
uninhabitable shortly after 70,000 years ago. In the Nile Valley, however, the Middle 
Paleolithic persisted throughout the valley filling that seems to have begun at about the 
same time as local rainfall ceased. About 45,000 years ago or slightly later, the regimen 
of the river changed again, as the Nile cut a deep channel and the Middle Paleolithic 

Upper and Late Paleolithic 

Some ten millennia separate the most recent Middle Paleolithic from the earliest Upper 
Paleolithic known in the Nile Valley. The appearance of the Upper Paleolithic is marked 
by a major change in stone-working technology. In the Middle Paleolithic, there was a 
strong preference for wide, flat flakes, often struck from preshaped (Levallois) cores. In 
the Upper Paleolithic, the emphasis was on the production of long, narrow blades, which 
made more efficient use of raw material and resulted in blanks that were more consistent 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 12 

in shape and size; the latter may be a major factor in the increased standardization evident 
in the retouched tools of the Upper Paleolithic. 

There are no Upper Paleolithic sites in the Sahara, since the desert was hyperarid. The 
earliest Upper Paleolithic site known in the Nile Valley is Nazlet Khater-4 in Upper 
Egypt, a flint mine with several radiocarbon dates of about 33,000 BP. Levallois 
technology appears to be absent and there are many Upper Paleolithic-type blade cores. 
The associated tools are retouched blades, denticulates and bifacial adzes, apparently 
used for quarrying. A bifacial adze was found nearby with a human skeleton, which is of 
a modern type but retains primitive features (similar to the Mechtoids described below). 
It is the oldest human skeleton known from Egypt. 

The next known Upper Paleolithic sites are Shuwikhat-1, on the east bank near Qena 
slightly upstream from Nazlet Khater, and Site E71K9, a little farther upstream on the 
west bank near Esna (Isna). There are TL dates of 24,700 BP±2,500 years for Shuwikhat- 
1 and 21,590 BP±1,500 years for E71K9 (the standard errors overlap between 23,000 and 
22,000 BP). The artifacts in both sites are large blades, and the tools include numerous 
denticulates, a variety of well-made burins, retouched pieces and long pointed blades. 
Endscrapers and perforators are frequent. Both sites had rich fauna, mostly hartebeest and 
wild cattle, with occasional gazelle, hare and hyena; fish were rare. 

About 21,000 years ago, there was another change in the lithic technology. Large 
blades were replaced by bladelets, some of them microlithic (less than 30mm long), with 
steep retouch or backing along one edge. There was also a shift in subsistence to the 
exploitation of a wider range of resources and more intensive use of the river. These 
changes mark the beginning of the Late Paleolithic. There are more Late Paleolithic than 
Middle or Upper Paleolithic sites, and there is more regional variation. The material from 
Lower Nubia is often different from that of Upper Egypt, and there are local differences 
within each region. The tempo of change also accelerated, and similar changes in artifacts 
occurred at about the same time throughout the Valley. Stylistic studies suggest a high 
degree of interaction along the Valley, with intervals of cultural turmoil and rapid 
change. The cultural boundary between Lower Nubia and Upper Egypt shifted from time 
to time, varying from near the First Cataract to near Esna. There may have been other 
cultural boundaries farther down the Nile, but these cannot be defined since we have 
almost no information on the Late Paleolithic north of Qena. 

A complex series of stone tool industries has been defined for both Lower Nubia and 
Upper Egypt, each with distinctive features among the tools. Each occurs in several 
different settings, reflecting seasonality of occupation and showing a variety of activities; 
they are thought to represent distinct social groups. Most of the sequence records cultural 
developments through time, rather than changes in population. 

However, one stone tool industry, the Sebilian, is so different from what preceded it 
that population replacement seems likely. For at least six millennia, Late Paleolithic 
people in both Lower Nubia and Upper Egypt had used bladelets for the production of 
most retouched tools. Suddenly, about 14,000 years ago, many small Sebilian sites 
appear, from the Second Cataract to the Qena bend, in which most of the tools are large, 
wide, flat flakes (struck from Levallois or discoidal cores) retouched into geometric 
shapes never or rarely seen in earlier sites. Furthermore, Sebilian tools were preferentially 
made on quartzitic sandstone, diorite and other basement rocks, instead of the Nile chert 

Paleolithic cultures 13 

and agate pebbles preferred by earlier Late Paleolithic groups. Only in Upper Egypt did 
the Sebilian people use flint, in those areas where there is no sandstone or basement rock. 

The closest parallels to the Sebilian are in tropical Africa, and this may represent 
groups who came from the south, moving along the Nile from central Sudan or beyond. 
This was a period of climatic change in tropical Africa; temperatures had begun to rise, 
with accompanying shifts in the distributions of both plants and animals. If this represents 
an intrusion, it was brief and had almost no effect on later stone tool industries. The 
Sebilian people were soon replaced by other groups using artifacts that closely resemble 
the pre-Sebilian complexes in the area. All of these later industries, however, contain 
geometric microliths, mostly triangles, trapezes or crescents. This may represent new 
kinds of composite tools or a new weapon, such as the bow and arrow. 

The disappearance and reappearance of Levallois technology is a noteworthy feature 
of the Nilotic Late Paleolithic, and the distribution of this technology illustrates the type 
of interaction that seems to have gone on throughout this period. Levallois technology, 
characteristic of the Middle Paleolithic, is not found in the Upper Paleolithic sites of 
Upper Egypt. Nothing is known about the Upper Paleolithic in Lower Nubia, but 

Table 2 Distribution and chronological range of 
Late Paleolithic industries in the lower Nile Valley 

Lower Nubia Upper Egypt 

Arkinian (10,600 BP) 

Isnan (12,700-11,500 BP) 
Afian (13,500-12,300 BP) 

Qadan (14,500-12,000 BP) 

Sebilian (ca. 14,000 BP) Sebilian (ca. 14,000 BP) 

Ballanan-Silsilian (16,000-15,000 BP) Ballanan-Silsilian (16,000-15,000 BP) 

Idfuan (17,500-17,000 BP) 

Halfan (19,500-18,500 BP) Kubbaniyan (19,000-16,500 BP) 

Industry D (19,100 BP) 
Fakhurian (21,000-19,500 BP) 

technology reappeared there (if indeed it had disappeared) at the same time as the Late 
Paleolithic bladelet complexes, around 21,000 years ago. However, the technology was 
now used differently. In the Middle Paleolithic, it was used to produce the flake blanks 
that were then retouched into almost all classes of tools; in the Late Paleolithic, it was 
used to produce only a blank of a particular shape, and this shape varied by industry. The 
Levallois technique was more important in Lower Nubia throughout the Late Paleolithic, 
and it may have been reintroduced into Upper Egypt from that direction. 

The subsistence economy is one of the most interesting aspects of the Late Paleolithic. 
Fishing was an important part of the diet at some early Middle Paleolithic sites, but the 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 14 

hunting of large mammals seems to have been more important in the later Middle 
Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic. The Late Paleolithic saw a shift away from large 
mammals to a more diversified subsistence basis. Many Late Paleolithic sites contain 
large quantities of fish bones, mostly catfish, and it is believed that these were harvested 
during the seasonal spawn at the beginning of the flood, when more fish could easily 
have been taken than could be immediately consumed. In some sites there are pits and 
other features which may have been used for smoking fish. This is the earliest indication 
in Egypt of the storage of food for future use. 

The greater diversity of foods is also evident in the importance of waterfowl and 
shellfish, which were first eaten in significant quantities during the Late Paleolithic. The 
most dramatic change in subsistence, however, was in the use of plant foods, particularly 
those from the marshes and swamps along the edge of the Nile. Tubers and seeds of 
wetland plants have been recovered from several Late Paleolithic sites in Wadi 
Kubbaniya, together with the grinding stones presumably used to process them. (Many of 
the tubers contain toxins which can be removed by grinding and roasting.) Grinding 
stones occur in many Late Paleolithic sites along the Nile, suggesting that plant foods 
were an important component of the diet. 

The earliest burials known in the Nile Valley are those at Nazlet Khater and 
Kubbaniya, mentioned above. A group of three slightly younger burials was found at 
Deir el-Fakhuri, near Esna. All of these skeletons are of fully modern Homo sapiens 
sapiens, but they were very robust, with short wide faces and pronounced alveolar 
prognathism. They have been compared with a type known as Mechtoid (from the site of 
Mechta el-Arbi), which are found in Late Paleolithic sites throughout North Africa, and 
particularly in the Maghreb. 

In the Nile Valley there are three Late Paleolithic graveyards, all associated with 
Qadan assemblages: Jebel Sahaba, a few kilometers north of Wadi Haifa on the east bank 
of the Nile, with 59 burials; Site 6-B-36, on the west bank almost opposite Wadi Haifa, 
with 39 burials; and Wadi Tushka, north of Abu Simbel in southern Egypt, with 19 
burials. The radiocarbon dates range between 14,000 and 13,000 BP. All of the skeletons 
are Mechtoid, indicating a long and unbroken history for this type in the Nile Valley. 

Several of the Jebel Sahaba skeletons had pieces of stone embedded in their bones; 
these and other signs of trauma indicate that more than 40 percent of the men, women 
and children in the graveyard had died by violence, and this may well be the earliest 
evidence for conflict. The Kubbaniya skeleton also had pieces of stone embedded in his 
bones and pelvic cavity, suggesting some intergroup competition even before 20,000 
years ago. At the Tushka graveyard, skulls of wild cattle were used as markers for several 
of the graves, suggesting a special attitude toward wild cattle which may anticipate the 
emphasis on cattle seen several thousand years later in the early Neolithic. 

Between 14,000 and 12,000 BP, there were rapid cultural changes in the Nile Valley, 
some of which may be related to changes in the behavior of the river. Rainfall was 
increasing in East and Central Africa, and the White Nile, which was previously dry, 
began to flow again. About 12,500 BP the increased rainfall in the Nile's headwaters 
resulted in a series of exceptionally high floods in Egypt, followed by downcutting and a 
change in the river's morphology from numerous small braided channels to the single 
large channel that is seen today. 

Paleolithic cultures 15 

Two Late Paleolithic stone tool industries (the Qadan in Lower Nubia and the Isnan in 
Upper Egypt) survived the onset of these changes, but their subsistence economies must 
have been seriously affected. Almost nothing is known about the period between 11,500 
and 8,500 BP; these sites are either buried in the floodplain or destroyed by cultivation. 
Our next information relates to 8,500 years ago, when people were still living in small 
groups in essentially Late Paleolithic ways, with an economy based on fishing, hunting 
and, to judge by the grinding stones, plant gathering. 

See also 

climatic history; Dakhla Oasis, prehistoric sites; dating techniques, prehistory; Kharga 
Oasis, prehistoric sites; Paleolithic tools; Wadi Kubbaniya 

Further reading 

Close, A.E., ed. 1987. Prehistory of Arid North Africa: Essays in Honor of Fred Wendorf Dallas. 

Schild, R., and F.Wendorf. 1981. The Prehistory of an Egyptian Oasis. Wroclaw. 

Wendorf, F. 1968. The Prehistory of Nubia. Dallas. 

Wendorf, F., and R.Schild. 1980. Prehistory of the Eastern Sahara. New York. 


Epi-paleolithic cultures, overview 

The term "Epi-paleolithic" is used in North Africa to refer to artifact assemblages 
characterized by microlithic tools spanning the interval between the end of the Paleolithic 
and the beginning of the Neolithic. The term "Neolithic" is often used to refer to the 
presence of pottery and grinding stones, once believed to be invariably associated with 
the advent of food production. However, sites in North Africa with no evidence of food 
production have yielded both pottery and grinding stones. Moreover, evidence for food 
production, such as bones of domesticated animals and plant remains of domesticated 
plants, is highly controversial in some of the sites attributed to the Neolithic. In addition, 
the separation of the Epi-paleolithic from the Final Paleolithic is uncertain because 
microlithic tools also occur in some sites of the Final Paleolithic. Accordingly, the term 
Epipaleolithic is ambiguous, with no definite chronological boundaries, no special mode 
of adaptation and no distinct tool assemblage. In general, the terms Epi-paleolithic, 
Terminal Paleolithic or Post-Paleolithic have been used to refer to artifact assemblages 
(often grouped into "industries" — groups of assemblages from several sites showing 
overall similarities in the kind and frequency of tool types and manufacturing techniques) 
dating from circa 12,000 to 8,000/6,000 BP (before present in radiocarbon years, i.e. 
uncalibrated radiocarbon dates). 

The Epi-paleolithic assemblages in the Nile Valley include the Arkinian, the 
Shamarkian, el-Kabian and Qarunian, and span a period from circa 12,000-7,500 BP. No 
Neolithic sites in the Nile Valley date before the sixth millennium BP. By contrast, 
evidence for domesticated cattle from the tenth millennium BP has been advocated, but 
not widely accepted. However, it is very likely that domesticated cattle, as well as sheep 
and goats, were herded in the Western Desert (Eastern Sahara) during the eighth 
millennium BP. 

Tool assemblages from the Western Desert, which are regarded either as early 
Neolithic or Post-Paleolithic, are characterized by backed and truncated bladelets, 
denticulates, burins, perforators, end-scrapers, geometric microliths and projectile points. 
Bone has been reported, but is scarce. Pottery is especially rare in Baharia and Siwa 
Oases. In the Nile Valley, tool assemblages include end-scrapers, burins, perforators, 
notches, denticulates, backed bladelets and flakes, (Ouchtata) bladelets, scaled pieces, 
truncated flakes, geometries and microburins. Grinding stones are present in the Arkinian 
assemblage and common in the Qarunian assemblage. Bone tools have also been reported 
from Qarunian sites and from the site of Catfish Cave, near Korosko in Lower Nubia. 

Faunal remains from the Nilotic Epi-paleolithic sites include those of wild cattle, 
hartebeest and fish. Red-fronted gazelle, addax and hippopotamus were reported from 
Qarunian sites. Large amounts of fish were recovered from the lower layers at Catfish 
Cave and from the Qarunian sites in the Fayum depression. Pottery has been reported 
from Shamarkian sites (circa 8,860 BP) and from el-Tarif (circa 6,310 BP) in Thebes. 
The occurrence of pottery in the Sudan dates to circa 9,400 BP at the site of Sarurab. In 
the central Sahara, pottery dates to circa 9,400-9,000 BP. 

Epi-paleolithic cultures 17 

Epi-paleolithic sites apparently reflect a terminal development of cultural changes that 
were underway as early as 20,000 years ago in response to the advent of arid, cooler 
conditions. A cooling of as much as 9° C is suggested for East and South Africa then. 
North Africa would have been subjected to icy blasts in winter from northwesterly winds. 
Desert dunes advanced some 500km south of their present limits. By 14,000 BP, 
conditions began to change as the belt of summer monsoon rains moved northward, 
coinciding with the retreat of the glaciers in the mountains of East Africa. The rain-fed 
water pools created mini-oases in many parts of the eastern Sahara. Nile floods also 
began to rise, and by circa 12,500 BP, exceptionally high Nile floods inundated the 
desert margin beyond the limits of the modern floodplain. Between circa 10,000-7,000 
BP, mean annual rainfall in the southern part of the Egyptian Sahara was about 200mm. 

The climatic changes during the end of the Pleistocene seem to have triggered a 
variety of responses, indicated by the emergence of novel stone tool types (especially 
microlithic tools), bone tools for fishing, grinding stones and pottery. The subsistence 
base, which included hunting, fowling, plant gathering and fishing, was fairly broad. Fish 
were apparently exploited more regularly than before. Specialized hunting may have been 
pursued by some groups, such as the Sebilian. Fishing may have also been the main 
subsistence activity for other groups (Qarunian). Frequent changes in climatic conditions 
during the terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene also seem to have led to a fast rate of 
cultural change, as shown by the relatively quick succession of different industries. 
Interaction among peoples in the Nile Valley was inevitable. In the Sahara, populations 
would have had to change or expand their home range frequently, thus facilitating the 
exchange of ideas and artifacts across a broad belt of Africa. 

See also 

agriculture, introduction of; Baharia Oasis; climatic history; dating techniques, 
prehistory; fauna, domesticated; fauna, wild; Fayum, Neolithic and Predynastic sites; 
Neolithic cultures, overview; Paleolithic cultures, overview; Paleolithic tools; plants, 
wild; Siwa Oasis, prehistoric sites; Thebes, el-Tarif, prehistoric sites 

Further reading 

Hassan, F.A. 1980. Prehistoric settlements along the main Nile. In The Sahara and the Nile, 

M. A. J.Williams and H.Faure, eds, 421-50. Rotterdam. 
. 1995. Egypt in the prehistory of Northeast Africa. In Civilization of the Ancient Near East, 

J.M.Sasson, ed., 665-78. New York. 
Vermeersch, P.M. 1992. The Upper and Late Palaeolithic of Northern and Eastern Africa. In New 

Light on the Northeast African Past, F.Klees and R.Kuper, eds, 99-154. Koln. 
Wetterstrom, W. 1993. Foraging and farming in Egypt: the transition from hunting and gathering to 

horticulture in the Nile Valley. In The Archaeology of Africa: Food, Metals and Towns, T.Shaw, 

P.Sinclair, B.Andah and A.Okpoko, eds, 165-226. London. 


Neolithic cultures, overview 

The "Neolithic" (literally the "New Stone Age") is the common (if imprecise) term 
widely used to denote the initial appearance in a given region of food-producing — that is, 
agricultural — economies. For hundreds of millennia before agriculture appeared in Egypt, 
people lived there by hunting, fishing and gathering the area's rich profusion of natural 
flora and fauna, but about 7,500 years ago people in several areas of Egypt began 
cultivating wheat and barley and herding sheep, goats, cattle and pigs. The modest farms 
and crude hoes and grinding stones (two important new forms of stone tools of the 
"Neolithic") of these first Egyptian farmers might appear uninteresting and unimportant 
when compared, for example, to the great pyramids and funerary riches of the pharaohs 
who followed them, but, as in all other great civilizations of antiquity, Egypt's first states 
were only possible because agriculture provided vastly greater and more reliable amounts 
of food than hunting and gathering; all the tombs and temples and great cities of 
pharaonic Egypt were supported by the primitive annual cultivation of wheat, barley and 
a few other crops, supplemented by domesticated sheep, goats, cattle, pigs and other 

How did this transition to agriculture occur, and precisely when? And most interesting 
of all, why? Generations of scholars have contemplated these questions, and not only in 
Egypt; agriculture appeared in many areas of the world at about the same time. 

The key element in agriculture is environmental modification. Hunters and gatherers 
modify the environments of plants and animals in a small way, of course, by making 
camp fires and so forth, but farmers modify environments in much more intense ways. 
They plow fields, cut and burn forests, irrigate and weed crops, protect their farm animals 
from predators, and in many other ways alter the "natural" conditions of plant and animal 
life. Even in Egypt, where the Nile provided a relatively easy form of agriculture in 
which seeds could be planted in the wet rich soils left every year by the Nile floods, 
people still had to weed, build dikes to trap basins of water for irrigation, hand-water 
some crops, pen cattle, herd sheep and do other simple agricultural tasks. 

The essence of domestication is mutualism, the increasing dependence of plants, 
animals and people on each other, often to the point that plants and animals lose their 
ability to survive in the wild. Wheat and barley, for example, were altered genetically 
during the domestication process so that, among other changes, their seeds remain tightly 
attached to the plant's stem. This would be an extremely maladaptive change if these 
plants had to live in their natural environment, without human help in seeding these 
crops. Wild wheat and barley had evolved ways of seeding themselves by means of a 
brittle grain head that even light wind or the activities of birds and rodents could shatter, 
spilling the seeds on the ground to germinate the next year's plants. This ability to 
reproduce without human help has been largely lost as people have manipulated these 
crops over the millennia. Some of the initial genetic changes were probably accidental, 
made by people who did not know that by, for example, harvesting wild cereals more 
intensively by tapping ripe heads and collecting the grains from the shattering grain heads 
they were removing from the genetic population the seeds with this brittle characteristic. 
But cereals with this tough non-shattering grain head are far easier to collect with sickles 
than the brittle wild varieties, and at some point people undoubtedly began intentionally 

Neolithic cultures 19 

to plant seeds from parent plants with desirable characteristics, just as they began to 
select for sheep with better wool, cows that produced more milk, and so forth. 

Given this sense of what agriculture and domestication are, we can consider how 
Egypt made the transition to an agricultural society. To begin with, farming in Egypt did 
not start because some genius observed natural reproduction in plants and animals and 
then domesticated animals and laid out a farm. The transition from hunting-gathering to 
agriculture in Egypt took place over centuries and involved plants and animals whose 
domestication required many millennia of both "natural" and intentional selection. 
Agricultural economies also require the development of specialized tools. Though vague, 
the "Neolithic" is not altogether an inappropriate term for early farming, because farming 
called for an entirely different toolkit from that used in hunting and gathering. Sickles 
and hoes in particular are important cereal farming tools, and archaeologically one of the 
most visible signs of changing economies is an increase in the stone mortars and pestles 
(grinding stones) used by most ancient peoples to make flour from grain. 

Perhaps the most infallible marker of the growing importance of agriculture is 
containers. Hunter-gatherers in different areas of the world used gourds, and occasionally 
stone and wood bowls (and in Egypt, empty ostrich eggs), but farming requires many 
cheap containers for food preparation, storage, plant watering and a thousand other uses. 
Pottery was, of course, the means by which early farmers across the world met this need 
for containers, and the processes of pottery production were independently invented 
many times. 

It now seems very probable that all the major Egyptian farm crops and some of the 
domesticated animals were domesticated outside of Egypt, mainly in southwest Asia, and 
then introduced to Egypt. Various scholars have advanced the hypothesis that agriculture 
appeared later in Egypt than in southwest Asia because the Nile Valley was so rich in 
native wild animals and plants that there was a "resistance" to farming, especially since 
we must assume that early farming was a laborious and not always reliable way of 
making a living in the preindustrial world. However, there is some evidence that ancient 
Egyptians were not simply passive recipients of foreign domesticates, for they appear to 
have domesticated several plants and animals. 

The best evidence for this is the result of many years of research by Fred Wendorf, 
Romauld Schild, Angela Close and their associates, in the Western Desert, the area in 
modern Egypt's southwest quarter. Their work has given us a detailed picture of the 
hunter-gatherers who roamed the fringes of the Nile Valley before agriculture appeared. 
About 11,000 years ago Africa's southern monsoon rain belt shifted northward, so that 
much more rain fell each year in the southern part of what is now the eastern Saharan 
Desert. By about 9,500 years ago, people began moving into the areas bordering the Nile 
Valley, into the rich grasslands that supported great herds of gazelles, wild cattle and 
other animals. The evidence is sketchy but it seems to suggest that people moved out into 
these grasslands from the Nile Valley itself, which at this time teemed with huge catfish, 
hippopotami, waterfowl and many other animal and plant resources. At Kom Ombo,Wadi 
Kubbaniya and other southern Egyptian sites, stone tools and other remains have been 
found that represent sedentary communities of people who relied heavily on animals and 
plants whose environments they significantly modified. The mortars, sickle blades and 
other implements found at these sites suggest substantial plant use, but the adaptation 
appears to have been a mobile one, based on small groups pursuing a diversified hunting- 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 20 

gathering economy. The earliest evidence of forms of subsistence, settlement and 
technology in northeast Africa that differed significantly from those of the late 
Pleistocene comes from the desert areas of Bir Kiseiba and Nabta in what is now 
southwest Egypt. On the basis of evidence from this area, Wendorf, Schild and Close 
note that both cattle and pottery were known here as early as anywhere else in the world. 

Thus, as early as 9,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians seem to have been in the process 
of domesticating plants and animals and developing the ground stone tools and other 
implements of an agricultural economy. But these local domesticates appear to have been 
displaced at some point after about 8,000 years ago, when domesticated strains of wheat 
and barley were introduced into Egypt, along with domesticated sheep and goats (there is 
no reliable evidence that the wild ancestors of either sheep (Ovis orientalis) or goats 
(Capra hircus) lived in North Africa). We do not know — and may never know — if people 
using these domesticated plants and animals immigrated to Egypt or whether these 
domesticates were simply introduced along trade routes that had been in operation for 
many centuries before farming appeared. Once established, however, the farming 
communities quickly spread through the Delta and Nile Valley, displacing both those 
hunter-gatherer groups that might have remained as well as groups that were already 
highly dependent on local plants and had developed something of an agricultural 
technology. The growing aridity of the period after about 7000 BC may well have forced 
people into the Nile Valley from the increasingly barren desert margins, and perhaps they 
brought with them both domesticated cattle and the ground stone tools that would have 
been especially productive when combined with southwest Asian domesticated crops and 
animals. These technological changes and the contrast between non-agricultural and 
agricultural economies is vividly illustrated in Egypt's Fayum Oasis, which contains 
some of the earliest and most extensive remains of agriculture in Egypt. Around the 
ancient shorelines of the lake that used to fill this oasis are the remains of hundreds of 
camp sites of people who hunted, fished and foraged this rich lacustrine environment 
between about 9000 and 6000 BC. These camp sites are marked by countless small stone 
tools, many of them in the form of blades about 10cm long, and the animal bones found 
amidst these tool scatters are from the native wild fauna of the region, principally fish, 
crocodiles, hippopotami, birds and wild forms of cattle. There are no grinding stones, 
pottery fragments or other evidence that they grew crops, and no evidence that they 
raised domestic animals. 

However, along other, later shorelines of the Fayum lake are the remains of 
settlements of people who lived partly by farming. In 1925-6, Gertrude Caton Thompson 
and Ellen Gardner excavated several of these Neolithic sites (later dated to about 5000 
BC) on the northern side of the ancient Fayum lake, and near these sites they found many 
evidences of primitive agriculture. In one area, for example, they found 165 pits, many of 
them lined with coiled straw "basketry" and some of them containing wheat (emmer 
wheat, Triticum dicoccum) and barley (Hordeum sp.). These pits averaged 91-122cm in 
diameter and 30-61cm in depth. Inside some of the silos were agricultural tools, 
including a beautifully preserved sickle of wood and flint. So well preserved was some of 
the grain that investigators at the British Museum tried (unsuccessfully) to germinate it. 
In the sites near these silos are innumerable potsherds, hundreds of limestone grinding 
stones, sickle blades, and the remains of the domesticated sheep, goats, pigs and other 
animals that these Fayum people used to complement their grain crops. 

Neolithic cultures 21 

These evidences from the Fayum are still among the very earliest signs of agriculture 
known in Egypt, but no evidence was found by Caton Thompson, or by any of the later 
researchers in this area, that the people living in the Fayum "invented" agriculture and 
made the transition to farming there. The wheat, barley, sheep and goats of the Neolithic 
Fayum appear to be of strains domesticated in southwest Asia, not Egypt, and there 
seems to have been a period between the hunter-gatherers and the first farmers when the 
Fayum was not occupied. So where did these Fayum farmers come from, and when? How 
did they initially take up agriculture? 

The answers to these questions, unfortunately, may be lost or deeply buried in the Nile 
alluvium. Because of the Nile's scouring effects and because of the intensity of 
occupation and cultivation of the Nile's margins, as well as the thick layer of silt that 
presumably covers the earliest occupations of the Delta and other areas of the Nile 
channel, very little is known about early agriculture in Egypt in areas beyond the Fayum 
and Merimde Beni-salame. If the radiocarbon date of about 4700 BC from samples taken 
by means of an auger from several meters below ground level (from just above a layer 
containing pottery) in the far eastern Delta is representative, the earliest agricultural 
communities in Egypt are far under the groundwater levels, beneath thick layers of silt. 

Once domesticated wheat, barley, sheep, goats, pigs and cattle were well established 
in Egypt, probably at least by 5000 BC, the cultural landscape began changing rapidly. 
The Fayum agriculturalists, for example, seem never to have made the transition to a 
fully agricultural way of life based on village communities, perhaps because the 
productivity of the lake made primitive agriculture a somewhat marginal improvement, 
but also probably because annual floods made the lake shore a less attractive farming area 
than the flood basins along the Nile itself. 

Although the shift to agriculture quickly resulted in a majority of food being produced 
from cereals and domesticated animals, Egyptians continued to rely heavily on fish. In 
fact, fish bones are a common component of nearly every ancient Egyptian 
archaeological site from the Neolithic period to the recent past. Animals in the Nile and 
the desert margins also continued to be hunted throughout antiquity, although eventually 
hunting hippopotami, lions, gazelles and other animals became more of a royal sport than 
a subsistence activity. Wild fowl, especially ducks and geese, were an important element 
in ancient Egyptian diets, and early in Egyptian antiquity ducks and geese were penned 
and kept both for eating and for their eggs (domesticated fowl was not introduced to 
Egypt until Roman times). 

By 4000 BC there were farming communities at el-Badari, Merimde Beni-salame and 
probably hundreds of other places as well. These early communities seem at first to have 
been made up of simple round or oval pit-houses made of wood, thatch and mud, but 
soon rectangular buildings made of mudbrick and sharing common walls — the classic 
Middle Eastern architectural form — appeared, and within a few centuries most of Egypt's 
people lived in such communities. This type of farming community has shown great 
stability and continuity of form and function. The remains of farming communities of 
2000 BC greatly resemble those of AD 1000, and even into modern times the Egyptian 
farming village shows strong resemblances to ancient communities. 

If, as seems likely, ancient Neolithic Egyptian communities resembled those that are 
known from their earliest representatives, they were small clusters of reed huts or, later, 
mudbrick houses that were probably occupied by members of several extended families, 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 22 

with a total community population of a few hundred at most. The similarity of styles of 
artifacts suggests cultural connections among these communities but there were probably 
no political or economic authorities or institutions — that is, no "chiefs" or other 
hereditary rulers — until after 4000 BC. The natural richness of the Nile Valley would 
have allowed these Neolithic communities to subsist without much exchange of 
foodstuffs among them. 

As in later Egyptian history, the core of the Neolithic diet was probably bread and 
beer. Later texts show that beer was, of course, drunk in part for its intoxicating 
properties, but the beer made in ancient Egypt was also a good nutritional complement to 
the diet. Beer was made from bread that was crumbled into water, mixed with yeast and 
perhaps a few other substances, and then simply allowed to ferment; once fermented, it 
was strained. Thus beer making was an efficient way to use stale bread and surplus grain. 

It is difficult to define either a beginning or an ending to the "Neolithic" period, since 
at least a few Egyptians appear to have been domesticating plants and animals and doing 
some minor agriculture as early as 10,000 years ago, and in a sense the "Neolithic" 
economy of mixed grain farming and livestock raising that was well established by 5000 
BC was not basically changed until the Romans introduced many new crops and farming 
techniques 5,000 years later. Research on Egypt's agricultural origins continues, and in 
the future there is hope that some of the major questions can be resolved. Studies of the 
DNA of ancient Egyptian cereals may show precisely from what strains of southwest 
Asian variants they were derived. 

Understanding the origins of Egyptian agriculture is just one piece of a much larger 
puzzle, of course, for at the same time cereals and herd animals were being domesticated 
in southwest Asia and introduced to North Africa, many other animals and plants were 
being domesticated in south and southeast Asia, and in North and South America. 
Certainly the climatic changes that occurred worldwide at the end of the last Ice Age, 
some 10,000 years ago, may have been directly or indirectly involved in agricultural 
origins, but in each case a somewhat different combination of climatic change, population 
growth, evolving tool technologies and other factors seems to have been the basis for this 
momentous transition in human history. 

See also 

agriculture, introduction of; el-Badari district Predynastic sites; brewing and baking; 
Caton Thompson, Gertrude; climatic history; dating techniques, prehistory; fauna, 
domesticated; fauna, wild; Fayum, Neolithic and Predynastic sites; Merimde Beni- 
salame; Neolithic and Predynastic stone tools; pottery, prehistoric; Wadi Kubbaniya 

Further reading 

Butzer, K.W. 1976. Early Hydraulic Civilization in Egypt. Chicago. 

Caton Thompson, G., and E.Gardner. 1934. The Desert Fayum. London. 

Eiwanger, J. 1982. Die neolithische Siedlung von Merimde-Benisalame. MDAIK 38:67-82. 

Hoffman, M.A. 1991. Egypt before the Pharaohs. New York. 

Neolithic cultures 23 

Krzyzaniak, L., and M.Kobusiewicz, eds. 1984. Origins and Early Development of Food- 
Producting Cultures in North-Eastern Africa. Poznan. 

. 1989. Late Prehistory of the Nile Basin and the Sahara. Poznan. 

Wenke, R.J. 1991. The evolution of Egyptian civilization: issues and evidence. JWP 5(3): 279-329. 


Predynastic period, overview 

The Predynastic period dates to the fourth millennium BC, when early farming 
communities first arose in the Egyptian Nile Valley. By the middle of this millennium 
social organization in some villages in Upper Egypt was becoming increasingly complex, 
and by 3000 BC the Early Dynastic state of Egypt had formed, unifing a large territory 
along the Nile from the northern Delta to Aswan at the First Cataract. During the 
Predynastic period cereal agriculture, which had been introduced earlier from southwest 
Asia, was adapted to the floodplain ecology of the lower Nile Valley, with enormous 
economic potential. By the end of the Predynastic period a simple form of irrigation 
agriculture may have been practiced which provided the economic base of the Dynastic 

In the early fourth millennium BC two different cultures emerged: the Ma'adi culture 
of Lower Egypt and the Nagada culture of Upper Egypt. The Ma'adi culture, named after 
the site of Ma'adi located south of present-day Cairo, most likely evolved from 
indigenous Neolithic cultures. Sites with Ma'adi ceramics extend from Buto near the 
Mediterranean to south of Cairo, and into the Fayum region, but information regarding 
settlement patterns is fairly incomplete. 

The Nagada culture of Upper Egypt is named after the largest known Predynastic site, 
Nagada. This is a different material culture from that in the north, and the origins of the 
Nagada culture are probably to be found among indigenous hunter-gatherers and 
fishermen living along the Nile. Archaeological evidence, mainly from cemeteries, 
suggests a core area of the Nagada culture that extended from Abydos in the north to 
Hierakonpolis in the south, but Nagada sites also exist on the east bank in the el-Badari 
region and in the Fayum. Major centers developed at Abydos, Nagada and Hierakonpolis 
(Nekhen). By the end of the Predynastic period (Nagada III), sites with Nagada culture 
ceramics are found in the northern Delta. In Lower Nubia there are numerous A-Group 
burials which contain many Nagada culture craft goods probably obtained through trade, 
but the A-Group seems to represent a different culture. Systematic study of the 
Predynastic began with Flinders Petrie's excavations at Nagada in 1894-5. Relative 
dating of the Nagada culture has been based on a seriation of grave goods devised by 
Petrie, which he called "Sequence Dating" (SD). Petrie recognized three periods of the 
Predynastic: Amratian, Gerzean and Semainean. The Badarian, an earlier phase of the 
Predynastic, is known from Middle Egypt. More recently, this sequence has been 
modified by Werner Kaiser into three (slightly different) phases, Nagada I, II and III. 
Kings of a unified Egypt immediately preceding the 1st Dynasty are placed in what is 
called "Dynasty 0." 

Calibrated radiocarbon dates of two charcoal samples from a Badarian site circa the 
mid-fifth millenium BC, excavated by Diane Holmes, suggest one of the earliest farming 
villages in the Nile Valley. Calibrated dates published by Fekri Hassan from three early 
Nagada (I) sites are circa 3800 BC, and dates of the Nagada II area of "South Town," the 
large town excavated by Petrie at Nagada, range from 3600 to 3300 BC. One calibrated 

Predynastic period 25 

date of 3100 BC has been recorded for a Nagada III tomb at Hierakonpolis. A chronology 
compiled by the late Klaus Baer, based on king lists, places the beginning of the 1st 
Dynasty at circa 3050 BC. 

Figure 2 Predynastic sites in Egypt 

Archaeological evidence of Predynastic cultures 

In Upper Egypt, one of the earliest archaeological surveys was conducted by Henri de 
Morgan for the Brooklyn Museum in 1906-7 and 1907-8. Surveying between Gebel es- 
Silsila (65km north of Aswan) and Esna, de Morgan excavated seven sites with 
Predynastic and Early Dynastic remains, including settlements as well as cemeteries. 
Fourteen additional Predynastic sites in the region were reported. More recent 
investigations have been done by Beatrix Midant-Reynes at one of these sites, el-Ada'ima. 
Hierakonpolis is certainly the most important Predynastic site in the far south. In the 
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, excavations were conducted there by de 
Morgan, J.E.Quibell and F.W.Green, and John Garstang. The best known finds from this 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 26 

period are the maceheads of (King) Scorpion and Narmer, and the (Nagada II) 
"Decorated Tomb," with painted plaster walls. More recent investigations by the late 
Walter Fairservis and the late Michael Hoffman located over fifty Predynastic sites, 
including cemeteries, settlements and industrial sites for the production of pottery, beads, 
stone vases and beer. Hoffman excavated the remains of Predynastic houses, and a large 
oval courtyard may be the earliest evidence for a (Nagada II) temple complex. A 
cemetery area (Locality 6) contained large (Nagada III) tombs, up to 22.75 sqm in floor 
area, which possibly belonged to the late Predynastic rulers of Hierakonpolis. 

On the west bank 9km southwest of Luxor is the Predynastic site of Armant. 
O.H.Myers excavated a Predynastic village and Predynastic Cemetery 1400-1500 here, 
with graves from all three Nagada phases. The grave goods from this cemetery were 
important for Kaiser's revisions of Petrie's Predynastic sequence. In the 1980s Polish 
archaeologists excavated a Predynastic settlement near this cemetery, but the only 
evidence of permanent architecture were circular structures built of large limestone slabs. 

Located 28km northwest of Luxor, on the west bank, the three Predynastic cemeteries 
at Nagada were excavated by Petrie in 1894-5. With over 2,200 graves, these cemeteries, 
along with the estimated 1,000 burials excavated by Quibell at Ballas, just north of 
Nagada, form the largest known mortuary area in Predynastic Egypt. The small Cemetery 
T at Nagada (Nagada II — III) has been considered the burial place of Predynastic 
chieftains or kings. One well-preserved "royal" tomb with an elaborately niched 
mudbrick superstructure, excavated by Jacques de Morgan along with small graves with 
Early Dynastic grave goods, contained mud sealings of (King) Aha ; wno reigned at the 
beginning of the 1st Dynasty. Two Predynastic settlements, "North Town" and "South 
Town," were also investigated by Petrie in the Nagada region. In the northern part of 
South Town Petrie found the remains of a thick mudbrick wall, which appeared to be a 
type of fortification. 

Opposite Nagada are more Predynastic sites. Fernand Debono located a Predynastic 
village and graves near Lakeita, 33km southeast of Quft/Qift in the Wadi Hammamat. At 
Quft in the temple of Isis and Min, Petrie excavated a deposit with Predynastic potsherds, 
stone tools and maceheads. 

About 45km northwest of Nagada, below the Qena bend of the Nile, a major 
Predynastic center was located at Hu, known as Diospolis Parva in Graeco-Roman times. 
In 1898-9, Petrie excavated six "prehistoric" cemeteries in the region, and he noted the 
remains of prehistoric villages. Cemetery H, near the village of Semaineh, was also 
where Petrie excavated burials with Nagada III grave goods; hence the term "Semainean" 
for his latest Predynastic phase. 

Site HG, near the village of Halfiah Gibli, was excavated by Kathryn Bard in 1991, 
but no evidence of permanent architecture was found. This village was associated with 
the large Predynastic cemetery excavated by Petrie at Abadiya. On the east bank opposite 
Girga at Naga ed-Deir, a Predynastic cemetery (7000), with over 600 burials, was 
excavated by Albert Lythgoe in 1903-4. One large burial (7304) contained lapis lazuli 
beads and a cylinder seal with a (Jemdet Nasr-style) design, imported or emulating an 
artifact from a contemporaneous culture in southern Mesopotamia. Excavations were 
resumed in the region in 1910 by the Boston-Harvard Expedition. 

Abydos was a major center of Predynastic culture in Upper Egypt. Diana Craig 
Patch's recent investigations here of cemeteries and settlements show a change in 

Predynastic period 27 

settlement patterns through time, with some nucleation within the region by the end of 
the Nagada II phase. Predynastic cemeteries recorded in the Abydos region are in three 
areas, one near the Osiris temple, the others near the villages of el-Amra and el-Mahasna. 
In 1901, D.Randall-MacIver and A.C.Mace excavated (or estimated) more than 1,000 
Predynastic and Early Dynastic burials near the village of el-Amra, from which the term 
Amratian (=Nagada I) is derived. Excavated at el-Amra was a unique clay model of a 
rectangular Predynastic house. 

The Umm el-Qa'ab at Abydos is where the kings of the 1st Dynasty built their tombs 
and "funerary enclosures," walled constructions located along the edge of cultivation. 
Northeast of the royal tombs are smaller and less elaborate tombs (B group) excavated by 
Petrie, investigated more recently by Kaiser and Giinter Dreyer. Several of these tombs 
have been identified as belonging to three kings of Dynasty and the first king of the 1st 
Dynasty ('V>si). A tomb (U-j) has also been excavated here with over 400 pots imported 
from Palestine and many bone labels with the earliest known hieroglyphs. This evidence, 
then, is of a royal cemetery dating to the end of the Predynastic (Nagada IIIa-b/Dynasty 
0), possibly of kings whose descendants reigned in the 1st Dynasty. 

In Middle Egypt, Predynastic sites are known from the el-Badari district, on the east 
bank of the Nile. The earliest class of pottery ("Badarian") from sites in this region is 
thought to be earlier than Petrie's Predynastic classes from Upper Egypt, a chronology 
demonstrated by Gertrude Caton Thompson's excavation of the stratified midden at 
Hemamieh. Guy Brunton also thought that the graves he excavated at Deir Tasa, 
containing stone celts and black incised pottery, represent an early phase of the Badarian. 
At el-Badari, the remains of small Predynastic settlements and cemeteries were located 
on spurs above the floodplain. At Hemamieh were the remains of hut and/or storage 
circles, and at Mostagedda, Brunton excavated several small Predynastic villages, 
consisting of hut circles and middens. A recent archaeological survey in the el-Badari 
district by Diane Holmes and Renee Friedman has led to the discovery of two Predynastic 
sites. The ceramics collected at these sites suggest that in the el-Badari district, the 
"Badarian" is not a cultural period which entirely preceded the Amratian (Nagada I), but 
perhaps one which chronologically overlaps the Amratian known farther south. 

North of the el-Badari district, no Predynastic sites are known for over 300km. 
Archaeological evidence in the Fayum of both Nagada and Ma'adi culture wares now 
seems to suggest that this region was where peoples of the Predynastic cultures of Upper 
and Lower Egypt first came into contact. The best known Predynastic site in the Fayum 
region is the small cemetery at Gerza, from which the term Gerzean (Nagada II) is 
derived. Excavated by Petrie, this cemetery contained 288 burials with (Upper Egyptian) 
ceramics which are typically Nagada II. A later Predynastic cemetery with several 
hundred burials, excavated by Georg Moller, is located at Abusir el-Meleq, about 10km 
west of the present Nile. Ma'adi culture ceramics are found at the cemetery of es-Saff on 
the east bank opposite Gerza, and a site near Qasr Qarun in the southwestern region of 
the Fayum, excavated by Caton Thompson and E.W.Gardner in the 1930s. 

Haraga, southeast of the village of Lahun, was excavated in 1913-14 by Reginald 
Engelbach. Two Predynastic cemeteries contained burials with (Upper Egyptian) Nagada 
II pottery, though some of the pottery from one cemetery (H) resembles Predynastic 
Lower Egyptian wares. At Sedment, southwest of Haraga, ceramics excavated by Petrie 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 28 

and Brunton included small Black-topped Red Ware jars (Nagada culture, in Cemetery J), 
but Ma'adi culture ceramics in circular pits (without burials) in another area. 

In the Cairo region on the east bank, Predynastic evidence of a material culture 
different from that of Upper Egypt has been found at two major sites, el-Omari and 
Ma'adi. At el-Omari, an early Predynastic settlement was excavated by Fernand Debono. 
To the west was a village, "Omari A," where the dead were interred in houses, including 
oval structures and round, semi-subterranean ones. A second village had a separate 
cemetery, where each grave was covered with a mound of stones. Pottery at el-Omari 
consists of Ma'adi culture ceramics. 

Four sites were excavated at Ma'adi by Cairo University archaeologists from 1930 to 
1953, including a large settlement of over 40,000 sqm. More recent excavations have 
been conducted in the eastern part of the settlement by Italian archaeologists. Few grave 
goods were found in any of the 76 graves next to the Ma'adi settlement. In another 
cemetery at the mouth of the Wadi Digla ("Ma'adi South"), 468 human burials and 14 
animal burials were excavated, consisting of simple oval pits with either a few pots or 
entirely without grave goods. Ma'adi culture ceramics have also been found at Tura, 2km 
south of Ma'adi, and at Heliopolis, now a district of Cairo, in a small early Predynastic 
cemetery. However, at Tura a large Nagada Ill/early 1st Dynasty cemetery was also 
excavated by Hermann Junker, with grave goods of typical Nagada III pots. 

Evidence from the recent Ma'adi excavations suggests that through time occupation 
within the settlement shifted from east to west. There is no evidence of a planned 
settlement, nor are there any known areas of specialized activity. Houses consisted 
mainly of wattle and matting, sometimes covered with mud. Pottery from Ma'adi has 
datable parallels in Upper Egypt from the Nagada I and II phases, and the ceramic 
evidence suggests an end to occupation at Ma'adi by late Nagada II times (end of Nagada 
He). Most of the pottery excavated at Ma'adi is of a local ware not found in Upper Egypt. 
Recent investigations suggest that copper ore found throughout the site may have been 
used for pigment, and not for smelting. 

Although archaeological evidence at Ma'adi and Ma'adi-related sites is mainly from 
settlements, unlike most of the surviving evidence of Nagada culture cemeteries in Upper 
Egypt, what is known about Ma'adi suggests a material culture very different from that in 
the south. The cemetery at Ma'adi, with its very simple human burials, is also very 
different from Predynastic cemeteries in Upper Egypt. Some contact with southwest Asia 
is demonstrated by the imported coarse-tempered ware at Ma'adi, which may have been a 
northern Egyptian center for trade with Palestine. 

In the northeast Delta, surveys conducted by Dutch and Italian archaeologists in the 
1980s have yielded evidence of a number of sites dating to the fourth and third millennia 
BC, and late Roman times. Excavations at Tell el-Farkha have demonstrated a clear 
break, with a change in pottery fabrics and stratigraphic evidence of settlement 
abandonment, between the Predynastic and Early Dynastic occupations. At Tell Ibrahim 
Awad the stratigraphy shows an uninterrupted sequence from the late Predynastic, with 
no mudbrick architecture, to the Early Dynastic, with substantial mudbrick architecture. 
The early pottery is comparable to the straw-tempered ware from Tell el-Fara'in/Buto, 
farther west in the Delta, but it disappears and is replaced by wares known from Nagada 
III and Early Dynastic sites in the Delta and the Nile Valley. At Minshat Abu Omar, circa 
150km northeast of Cairo, a cemetery with Predynastic/Early Dynastic graves has been 

Predynastic period 29 

excavated by German archaeologists. Similar archaeological evidence is found at other 
sites in the northeast Delta: Tell el-Ginn, el-Husseiniya, Tell Samara, Gezira Sangaha, 
Kufur Nigm, Beni Amir, el-Beidha and Bubastis. With the exception of early Nagada 
culture pottery (Black-topped Red and White Cross-lined classes), all other southern 
Predynastic classes of pottery are present (Nagada II — III) and continue into the 1st 

On the western fringe of the Delta, about 60km northwest of Cairo, is the large 
prehistoric site of Merimde Beni-salame. Junker dug here from 1928 to 1939, but most of 
the excavation notes were lost during the Second World War. Reported by Hassan, 
radiocarbon dates for Merimde are from the fifth millennium BC. Junker thought that the 
circa 160,000 sqm of settlement was occupied continuously, but it is more likely that 
there was horizontal movement of the site through time. Merimde burials were without 
grave goods, and many were of children. In the 1980s, more excavations were conducted 
at Merimde by Josef Eiwanger, between and to the north of the areas excavated by 
Junker. Eiwanger has identified five phases of occupation, with a discernible change in 
the stone tools and ceramics between the first and subsequent phases. Storage pits are 
known from the four later phases, and emmer wheat and barley were the most abundant 
plant remains. 

At Tell el-Fara'in/Buto in the northern Delta, Thomas von der Way has excavated 
remains of a settlement from the later fourth millennium BC below levels dating to the 
third millennium BC. Most of the wares at Tell el-Fara'in were also found at Ma'adi. 
Above two layers with Lower Egyptian ceramics is a transitional layer with decreasing 
amounts of these ceramics and, for the first time, Nagada (lid) style pottery. Imported 
pottery includes Nagada culture classes and a ware known from northern Syria ('Amuq 


Archaeological evidence clearly demonstrates the existence of two different material 
cultures with different belief systems in Egypt in the fourth millennium BC: the Nagada 
culture of Upper Egypt and the Ma'adi culture of Lower Egypt. Evidence in Lower Egypt 
consists mainly of settlements with very simple burials, in contrast to Upper Egypt, 
where cemeteries with elaborate burials are found. The rich grave goods in several major 
cemeteries in Upper Egypt represent the acquired wealth of higher social strata, and these 
cemeteries were probably associated with centers of craft production. Trade and 
exchange of finished goods and luxury materials from the Eastern and Western Deserts 
and Nubia would also have taken place in such centers. In Lower Egypt, however, while 
excavated settlements permit a broader reconstruction of the prehistoric economy, there is 
little evidence for any great socioeconomic complexity. 

State formation 

Archaeological evidence points to the origins of the state which emerged by the 1st 
Dynasty in the Nagada culture of Upper Egypt, where grave types, pottery and artifacts 
demonstrate an evolution of form from the Predynastic to the 1st Dynasty. This cannot be 
demonstrated for the material culture of Lower Egypt, which was eventually displaced by 
that originating in Upper Egypt. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 30 

The highly differentiated burials in later Predynastic cemeteries of Upper Egypt (but 
not Lower Egypt), where elite burials contained great numbers of grave goods in 
sometimes exotic materials, such as gold and lapis lazuli, are symbolic of an increasingly 
hierarchical society. Such burials probably represent the earliest processes of competition 
and the aggrandizement of local polities in Upper Egypt as economic interaction occurred 
regionally. Control of the distribution of exotic raw materials and the production of 
prestigious craft goods would have reinforced the position of chiefs in Predynastic 
centers, and such goods were important symbols of status. 

A motivating factor for Nagada culture expansion into northern Egypt would have 
been to directly control the lucrative trade with other regions in the eastern 
Mediterranean. But more importantly, large boats were the key to control and 
communication on the Nile and large-scale economic exchange. Timber for the 
construction of such boats (cedars) did not grow in Egypt, but came from Lebanon. Gold 
was an Upper (not Lower) Egyptian resource, along with various kinds of stone used for 
carved vessels and beads. Possibly there was first a more or less peaceful(?) movement or 
migration(s) of Nagada culture peoples from south to north, as suggested by 
archaeological evidence of Nagada culture in the Fayum region. The final unification of 
Upper and Lower Egypt under one rule may have been achieved through military 
conquest(s) in the north, but there is not much evidence for this aside from scenes carved 
on stylistically late Predynastic palettes. Possibly there was an earlier unification of 
Upper Egyptian polities, either by a series of alliances or through warfare. 

By circa 3050 BC the Early Dynastic state had emerged in Egypt. One result of the 
expansion of Nagada culture throughout northern Egypt would have been a greatly 
elaborated (state) administration, and by the beginning of the 1st Dynasty this was 
managed in part by the invention of writing, used on sealings and tags affixed to state 
goods. The early Egyptian state was a centrally controlled polity ruled by a (god-)king 
from the newly founded capital of Memphis in the north, near Saqqara. What is truly 
unique about the early state in Egypt is the integration of rule over an extensive 
geographic region. There was undoubtedly heightened commercial contact with 
southwest Asia in the late fourth millennium BC, but the Early Dynastic state in Egypt 
was unique and indigenous in character. 

See also 

A-Group culture; Abusir el-Meleq; Abydos, Predynastic sites; agriculture, introduction 
of; Armant; el-Badari district Predynastic sites; Buto (Tell el-Fara'in); Canaanites; 
Dakhla Oasis, prehistoric sites; dating techniques, prehistory; Early Dynastic period, 
overview; Elkab; Fayum, Neolithic and Predynastic sites; Gebelein; Heliopolis, the 
Predynastic cemetery; Hierakonpolis; kingship; Ma'adi and the Wadi Digla; Mendes, 
Predynastic and Early Dynastic; Merimde Beni-salame; Minshat Abu Omar; Naga ed- 
Deir; Nagada (Naqada); Neolithic and Predynastic stone tools; el-Omari; Petrie, Sir 
William Matthew Flinders; pottery, prehistoric; Quft/Qift (Coptos); representational 
evidence, Predynastic; Tell el-Farkha; Tura, Predynastic cemeteries; writing, invention 
and early development 

Predynastic period 3 1 

Further reading 

Adams, B. 1988. Predynastic Egypt. Aylesbury. 

Bard, KA. 1994. The Egyptian Predynastic: a review of the evidence. JFA 21:265-88. 

Hassan, FA. 1984. Radiocarbon chronology of Predynastic settlements, Upper Egypt. CA 25:681- 

Hendrickx, S. 1995. Analytical Bibliography of the Prehistory and the Early Dynastic Period of 

Egypt and Northern Sudan. Leuven. 
Hoffman, MA. 1991. Egypt before the Pharaohs. Austin, TX. 
Kaiser, W. 1956. Stand und Probleme der agyptischen Vorgeschichtsforschung. ZAS 81: 87-109. 

. 1957. Zur inneren Chronologie der Naqadakultur. Archaeologia Geographica 6:69-77. 

. 1990. Zur Entstehung des gesamtagyptischen Staates. MDAIK 46:287-99. 

Petrie, W.M.F. 1939. The Making of Egypt. London. 

Wenke, R.J. 1991. The evolution of early Egyptian civilization: issues and evidence. JWP 5: 279- 



Early Dynastic period, overview 

Also known as the "Archaic", the Early Dynastic period consists of the 1st and 2nd 
Dynasties (circa 3050-2686 BC). What is now known as "Dynasty 0" should probably be 
placed in this period as well at the end of the Predynastic sequence. Kings of Dynasty 0, 
who preceded those of the 1st Dynasty, were buried at Abydos and the names of some of 
these rulers are known from inscriptions. The Early Dynastic state controlled a vast 
territory along the Nile from the Delta to the First Cataract, over 1,000km along the 
floodplain. With the 1st Dynasty, the focus of development shifted from south to north, 
and the early Egyptian state was a centrally controlled polity ruled by a (god-)king from 
the Memphis region. With the Early Dynastic state too, there came the emergence of 
ancient Egyptian civilization. 

In Dynasty and the early 1st Dynasty there is evidence of Egyptian expansion into 
Lower Nubia and a continued Egyptian presence in the northern Sinai and southern 
Palestine. The Egyptian presence in southern Palestine did not last through the Early 
Dynastic period, but with Egyptian penetration in Nubia, the indigenous A-Group culture 
comes to an end later in the 1st Dynasty. With the unification of Egypt into a large 
territorial state, the crown most likely wanted to control the trade through Nubia of exotic 
raw materials used to make luxury goods, which resulted in Egyptian military incursions 
in Lower Nubia. With the display of force by the Egyptians, A-Group peoples may 
simply have left Lower Nubia and gone elsewhere (to the south or desert regions), and 
there is no evidence of indigenous peoples living in Lower Nubia until the C-Group 
culture, beginning in the late Old Kingdom. 

In Palestine fortified cities contemporary to the Egyptian 1st Dynasty were built in the 
north and south. At the site of 'En Besor in southern Palestine, ninety fragments of 
Egyptian seal impressions have been found associated with a small mudbrick building 
and ceramics that are mainly Egyptian, including many fragments of bread molds. Made 
of local clay, the seal impressions are those of officials of four kings of the 1st Dynasty. 
This evidence suggests state-organized trade directed by Egyptian officials residing at 
this settlement during most of the 1st Dynasty. Such evidence in southern Palestine is 
missing during the 2nd Dynasty, however, and active contact may have broken off by 
then, as the sea trade with Lebanon intensified. 

One result of the expansion of the Predynastic Nagada culture from southern Egypt to 
the north would have been a greatly elaborated (state) administration, and by the 
beginning of the 1st Dynasty this was managed in part by early writing, used on sealings 
and tags affixed to state goods. Such evidence also suggests a state taxation system in 
place in the early Dynasties. Early writing has a royal context and was an innovation of 
great importance to this state, which used writing for economic/administrative purposes 
and in royal art. 

In the Memphis region graves and tombs are found beginning in the 1st Dynasty, 
which suggests the founding of the city at this time. Tombs of high officials are found at 
nearby North Saqqara, and officials and persons of all levels of status were buried at 

Early dynastic period 33 

other sites in the Memphis region. Such burial evidence also suggests that the Memphis 
region was the administrative center of the state. Other towns must have developed or 
were founded as administrative centers of the state throughout Egypt. Although it has 
been suggested that ancient Egypt was a civilization without cities, this was certainly not 
the case. At sites such as Abydos, Hierakonpolis and Buto, there is some archaeological 
evidence for early towns, but most such towns are probably buried now under alluvium 
or modern settlements. 

Most ancient Egyptians in the Early Dynastic period (and all later periods), however, 
were farmers who lived in small villages. Cereal agriculture was the economic base of the 
ancient Egyptian state, and by the Early Dynastic period simple basin irrigation may have 
been practiced which extended land under cultivation and increased yields. Huge 
agricultural surpluses were possible in this environment, and when such surpluses were 
controlled by the state they could support the flowering of Egyptian civilization that is 
seen in the 1st Dynasty. 

Compared with the early cities of southern Mesopotamia, there is much less evidence 
in Early Dynastic Egypt for cult centers of the gods. Some of the inscribed labels from 
the 1st Dynasty have scenes with structures that are temples or shrines. Early writing also 
appears on some of the small votive artifacts that were probably offerings or donations to 
cult centers. Early Dynastic carved stone vessels were sometimes inscribed, and signs on 
some of these suggest that they may have come from cult centers. Such evidence points 
to the existence of cult temples outside of the royal mortuary cult, but there is very little 
archaeological evidence of this architecture. At Coptos, Abydos and Hierakonpolis, 
artifacts and deposits from early temples have been excavated, and at Hierakonpolis there 
is also structural evidence of an early temple consisting of a low oval revetment of 
sandstone blocks. Recent excavations by the German Archaeological Institute, Cairo 
(DAI) on Elephantine Island at the First Cataract have revealed the remains of a shrine 
dating to the Early Dynastic period, a fortress built during the 1st Dynasty and a large 
fortified wall encompassing the town in the 2nd Dynasty. The shrine is very simple, 
consisting only of some mudbrick structures less than 8m wide nestled into a natural 
niche formed by granite boulders. 

Early Egyptian civilization was mainly expressed in monumental architecture of the 
mortuary cult, especially the royal tombs and funerary enclosures at Abydos and the large 
tombs of high officials at North Saqqara. Formal art styles, which are characteristically 
Egyptian, also emerged at the end of the Predynastic period and in the 1st Dynasty. What 
is characteristically Egyptian in the monumental architecture and commemorative art 
(such as the Narmer Palette) is reflective of full-time craftsmen and artisans supported by 
the crown. Artifacts of the highest quality of craftsmanship are found in royal and elite 
tombs of the period, including many copper tools and vessels. This was probably the 
result of royal expeditions to copper mines in the Eastern Desert and/or increased trade 
with copper-mining regions in the Negev/Sinai, and an expanded copper production 
industry in Egypt. 

At North Saqqara, the large tombs of the 1st Dynasty provide evidence of an official 
class of a large state. These tombs would also have been the most important monuments 
of the state in the north and thus were symbolic of the centralized state ruled very 
effectively by the king and his administrators. That huge quantities of craft goods were 
going out of circulation in the economy and into tombs is indicative of the wealth of this 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 34 

early state, which was shared by a number of officials. Clearly, the mortuary cult was 
also of great importance to non-royalty and the elements of royal burials were emulated 
in more modest form in the exclusive cemetery at North Saqqara. Smaller tombs and 
simple pit graves dating to the 1st Dynasty are found throughout Egypt, which is not only 
evidence of social stratification but also demonstrates the importance of the mortuary cult 
for all classes. The simplest burials of this period are pits excavated in the low desert, 
without coffins and with only a few pots for grave goods. 

In the south, Abydos was the most important cult center, where the kings of the 1st 
Dynasty were buried. From the very beginning of the Dynastic period the institution of 
kingship was a strong and powerful one, and it would remain so throughout the major 
historical periods. Nowhere else in the ancient Near East at this early date was kingship 
so important and central to control of the early state. Although it was previously thought 
that the kings of the 1st Dynasty were buried at North Saqqara, it is now clear that these 
tombs belonged to high officials and the Umm el-Qa'ab at Abydos is the burial place of 
the kings of the 1st Dynasty. Only at Abydos is there a small number of large tombs 
which correspond to the kings (and one queen) of this dynasty, and only at Abydos are 
there the remains of the funerary enclosures for all but one of the rulers of this dynasty, as 
has been demonstrated by David O'Connor's recent excavations. Called "fortresses" by 
earlier excavators, the funerary enclosures may have been where the cults of each king 
were practiced by priests and personnel after the burial in the royal tomb, as was the 
custom at later royal mortuary complexes. 

What is clearly evident in the Abydos royal cemetery is the ideology of kingship, as 
symbolized in the mortuary cult. Through ideology and its symbolic material form in 
tombs, widely held beliefs concerning death came to reflect the hierarchical social 
organization of the living and the state controlled by the king. This was a politically 
motivated transformation of the belief system with direct consequences in the 
socioeconomic system. The king was accorded the most elaborate burial, which was 
symbolic of his role as mediator between the powers of the netherworld and his deceased 
subjects, and a belief in an earthly and cosmic order would have provided a certain 
amount of social cohesiveness for the Early Dynastic state. 

All of the 1st Dynasty tombs at Abydos have subsidiary burials in rows around the 
royal burials, and this is the only time in ancient Egypt when humans were sacrificed for 
royal burials. Perhaps officials, priests, retainers and women from the royal household 
were sacrificed to serve their king in the afterlife. The tomb of Djer has the most 
subsidiary burials-338, but the later royal burials have fewer. In later times, small servant 
statues may have become more acceptable substitutes. 

The Abydos evidence demonstrates the huge expenditure of the state on the mortuary 
complexes, both tombs and funerary enclosures, of kings of the 1st Dynasty. These kings 
had control over vast resources: craft goods produced in court workshops, goods and 
materials imported in huge quantities from abroad, and probably conscripted labor (as 
well as labor that could be sacrificed for burial with the king). The paramount role of the 
king is certainly symbolized in these monuments, and the symbols of the royal mortuary 
cult which evolved at Abydos would become further elaborated in the pyramid 
complexes of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. 

There is much less evidence for the kings of the 2nd Dynasty than those of the 1st 
Dynasty. Given what is known about the early Old Kingdom in the 3rd Dynasty, the 2nd 

Early dynastic period 35 

Dynasty must have been when the economic and political foundations were put in place 
for the strongly centralized state which developed with truly vast resources. The only 2nd 
Dynasty monuments at Abydos are two tombs and two funerary enclosures which 
belonged to the last two kings of this dynasty, Peribsen and Khasekhemwy. 
Khasekhemwy's tomb consists of one long gallery, divided into 58 rooms with a central 
burial chamber made of quarried limestone; this is the earliest known large construction 
in stone. Where the early kings of this dynasty were buried is uncertain, as there is no 
evidence of their tombs at Abydos. At Saqqara, two enormous series of underground 
galleries, each over 100m long, have been found south of Zoser's Step Pyramid complex, 
and possibly two kings of this dynasty were buried there. Associated with these galleries 
are the seal impressions of the first three kings of the 2nd Dynasty (Hetepsekhemwy, 
Raneb and Nynetjer) and the third king might have been buried in a tomb consisting of 
galleries now beneath Zoser's complex. 

The best preserved funerary enclosure at Abydos belonged to Khasekemwy. Its niched 
inner walls are still preserved up to 10-1 lm in height and enclose an area circa 
124><56m. In 1988 O'Connor discovered a large mound of sand and gravel covered with 
mudbrick, approximately square in plan, within this enclosure. This mound was located 
more or less in the same area as the Step Pyramid of Zoser's complex at Saqqara (3rd 
Dynasty), which began as a low mastaba structure and only in its fourth stage was 
expanded to a stepped structure. Both complexes, of Khasekemwy and of Zoser, were 
surrounded by huge niched enclosure walls with only one entrance in the southeast. 
Zoser's complex was constructed 40-50 years after Khasekemwy's, and very possibly the 
mound at Abydos is evidence for a "proto-pyramid" structure. Thus at Abydos the 
evolution of the royal mortuary cult and its monumental form can clearly be seen, which 
by the 3rd Dynasty came to reflect a new order of royal control over vast resources and 
labor for the construction of the earliest monument in the world built entirely in stone. 

Also recently discovered at Abydos are twelve boat burials, located just outside the 
northeast outer wall of Khasekhemwy's enclosure. These burials consist of pits which 
contained wooden hulls of boats 18-2 lm long, but only about 50cm high. Associated 
pottery is Early Dynastic. Smaller boat burials have also been found with Early Dynastic 
tombs at Saqqara and Helwan, but their purpose is unknown. Those at Abydos are the 
earliest evidence of such burials associated with the royal mortuary cult. Later, at Giza in 
the 4th Dynasty, the most famous boat burials are the two undisturbed boats next to 
Khufu's pyramid. 

In the 2nd Dynasty, high officials of the state continued to be buried at North Saqqara. 
Near Unas's pyramid (5th Dynasty), James Quibell excavated five large subterranean 
tombs, the largest of which (Tomb 2302) consists of 27 rooms beneath a mudbrick 
superstructure. The 2nd Dynasty tombs were designed with rooms for funerary goods that 
were excavated deep in the bedrock where they were more protected from grave robbing 
than the earlier storage rooms in the superstructure. Niches placed on the east side of the 
superstructure (for offerings) in 2nd Dynasty tombs are a design feature that would be 
found in private tombs throughout the Old Kingdom. Later 2nd Dynasty tombs at 
Saqqara, which probably belonged to middle level officials, are similar in design to the 
standard mastaba tomb of the Old Kingdom, with a small mudbrick superstructure above 
a vertical shaft leading to the burial chamber. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 36 

Short wooden coffins for contracted burials, which were found only in elite tombs in 
the 1st Dynasty, are much more common in 2nd Dynasty tombs, such as those at Helwan. 
At Saqqara, Walter Emery found corpses wrapped in linen bandages soaked in resin, 
early evidence of some attempt to preserve the actual body before mummification 
techniques had been worked out. Such measures were necessitated by burial in a coffin, 
as opposed to Predynastic burials which were naturally dehydrated in warm sand in a pit 
in the desert. The increased use of wood and resin in middle status burials of the 2nd 
Dynasty probably also points to greatly increased contact and trade with Lebanon. 

The architecture, art and associated beliefs of the early Old Kingdom clearly evolved 
from forms of the Early Dynastic period. This was a time of consolidation of the 
enormous gains of unification — which could easily have failed — when a state 
bureaucracy was successfully organized and expanded to bring the entire country under 
its control. This was done through taxation, to support the crown and its projects on a 
grand scale, which included expeditions for goods and materials to the Sinai, Palestine, 
Lebanon, Lower Nubia and the Eastern Desert. Conscription must also have been 
practiced, to build the large royal mortuary monuments and to supply soldiers for military 
expeditions. The use of early writing no doubt facilitated such state organization. 

There were obvious rewards to being bureaucrats of the state, as is seen in the early 
cemeteries on both sides of the river in the Memphis region. Belief in the rewards of a 
mortuary cult, where huge quantities of goods were going out of circulation in the 
economy, was a cohesive factor which helped to integrate this society in both the north 
and south. In the early Dynasties when the crown began to exert enormous control over 
land, resources and labor, the ideology of the god-king legitimized such control and 
became increasingly powerful as a unifying belief system. 

The flowering of early civilization in Egypt was the result of major transformations in 
sociopolitical and economic organization, and in the belief system. That this state was 
successful for a very long time — circa 800 years until the end of the Old Kingdom — is in 
part due to the enormous potential of cereal agriculture on the Nile floodplain, but it is 
also a result of Egyptian organizational skills and the strongly developed institution of 

See also 

A-Group culture; Abydos, Early Dynastic funerary enclosures; Abydos, Umm el-Qa'ab; 
Buto (Tell el-Fara'in); C-Group culture; Canaanites; Early Dynastic private tombs; 
Elephantine; Helwan; Hierakonpolis; Kafr Tarkhan (Kafr Ammar); kingship; Memphis; 
Minshat Abu Omar; Naga ed-Deir; natural resources; representational evidence, Early 
Dynastic; textual sources, Early Dynastic; Tura, Dynastic burials and quarries; writing, 
invention and early development 

Further reading 

Emery, W.B. 1967. Archaic Egypt. Harmondsworth. 

Helck, W. 1987. Untersuchungen zur Thinitenzeit. Wiesbaden. 

Early dynastic period 37 

Hendrickx, S. 1995. Analytical Bibliography of the Prehistory and the Early Dynastic Period of 

Egypt and the Northern Sudan. Leuven. 
Kaiser, W. 1967. Die Vorzeit. Reichseinigung und Friihdynastische Zeit. Agyptisches Museum 

Berlin. Staatlichen Museum Preussischer Kulturbesitz: 9-22. 
Kemp, B.J. 1989. Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization. London. 
Spencer, A.J. 1993. Early Egypt: The Rise of Civilisation in the Nile Valley. London. 

. 1996. Aspects of Early Egypt. London. 

van den Brink, E., ed. 1992. The Nile Delta in Transition: 4th-3rd Millennium BC. Jerusalem. 


Old Kingdom, overview 

"Old Kingdom" is the term used by modern scholars to define the first lengthy period of 
documented centralized government in the history of ancient Egypt. It includes the 3rd 
through 8th Dynasties (in absolute chronology, circa 2665-2140 BC) within the 
traditional division of Egyptian history which has been adopted by modern Egyptologists. 
A further issue relates to the time when the end of the Old Kingdom is to be fixed. From 
a political point of view, the timespan from the 3rd to 8th Dynasties refers to the period 
of Egyptian history in which the country's residence was in the northern city of Memphis 
and pharaohs claimed total control over a unified Egypt. From a social point of view, 
however, beginning with the last decades of the 6th Dynasty and throughout the 7th and 
8th Dynasties, Egypt had already developed into a more flexible cultural landscape with 
numerous local centers of individual initiative as well as administrative power; what 
modern scholars refer to as the First Intermediate Period. 


While quantitatively rather scarce, our sources for the study of the Old Kingdom display 
a high degree of variety. The documents closest to historical records in our modern sense 
are the annals (gnwt), records of the natural or political events of particular importance 
which took place in a specific regnal year. The most important document of this type is 
the Palermo Stone, a broken piece of diorite from the 5th Dynasty which originally 
recorded the history of the country back to the first pharaoh, but which is now 

Similar to the annals are the king lists, chronicles relating the names of former kings 
mostly in diachronic succession. These were meant to testify to the contemporary 
sovereign's legitimate claim to the throne. These texts constituted the basis for Manetho's 
compilation of the Egyptian dynasties in Hellenistic times. While conveying hardly 
anything more than names of kings, they nonetheless document the internal Egyptian 
sense of the historical past. Of historical importance, although highly ideological, are also 
scenes in the funerary complexes of Old Kingdom kings, such as Sahure or Unas, 
representing events which took place during their reign. 

Far more informative for modern historians are contemporary administrative records. 
The most important of these are the papyri from the pyramid temple of King Neferirkare 
(5th Dynasty) at Abusir, compiled under King Djedkare-Isesi, two generations after the 
establishment of the funerary cult of the king. There are also royal decrees (wd nzw), 
formal decisions by the king on specific matters (as opposed to the laws (hpw) which 
governed general life). Royal decrees exempt the dependants of private funerary estates 
from state corvees, and communicate promotions or demotions within the bureaucratic 
hierarchy. Rare royal letters and a few testaments (jmjt-prw, literally "what-is in-the 
house") round out the Old Kingdom administrative records. 

Old Kingdom 39 

The intellectual history of the Old Kingdom is mainly documented by monumental 
texts. The religious corpus of Pyramid Texts are inscribed in the inner chambers of the 
royal tombs from King Unas of the 5th Dynasty onward. While primarily connected with 
the funerary ritual of the king, in the richness of their forms and topics the Pyramid Texts 
represent a whole encyclopedia of early Egyptian theology. Autobiographies of the 
higher officials of the administration are inscribed on the external walls of their rock 
tombs. Framed as accounts of the services rendered to the king during the tomb-owner's 
lifetime, these texts are the first examples of the individual concerns, ideas and 
aspirations of the high officials of the Egyptian administration. 

The most impressive source of records for Egyptian society during the Old Kingdom 
is undoubtedly offered by the architectural and artistic documentation. In the region of 
the capital at Memphis, the royal funerary complexes in stone architecture around the 
king's tomb as well as the private tombs of higher administrators document the fixation 
of formal conventions of stone architecture and the funerary expectations of Egyptian 
society. They provide an insight into the patterns which governed political effectiveness 
as well as social cohesion, subsumed under the concept of ma' at. 

Cultural features: societal centralism versus individual freedom 

The main cultural feature of this historical period is the tension between a state structure 
with a high level of centralization on the one hand and movements toward forms of 
localism and individualism on the other. A unifying tendency can be observed in the 
political and religious centers of the country in the Memphite area (Giza, Saqqara, 
Memphis, Heliopolis, Abusir, etc.) and especially in the earlier periods of the Old 
Kingdom, during the 3rd-5th Dynasties. A tendency toward individual freedoms is more 
tangible in the provincial centers in Upper Egypt; this trend characterizes mainly the later 
phases of the Old Kingdom, achieving a breakthrough during the 6th Dynasty and 
exploding during the transition to the First Intermediate Period. 

The most visible sign of the centralism of Old Kingdom society is represented by the 
dramatic evolution which affected royal funerary architecture. The funerary complex of 
King Zoser at Saqqara marks the political change from the Early Dynastic period to the 
Old Kingdom, in the sense that it conveys a modified picture of the relation between the 
state and its subjects. Through the use of stone instead of mudbrick and the development 
of the step pyramid as a superstructure to the shaft containing the king's burial chamber, 
Zoser's funerary complex indicates the permanent and preeminent role of kingship in 
Egyptian society. The king of Egypt has now acquired a role as the cultural focus of the 
country as a whole. His funerary complex is a highly symbolic mirror of the state's 
ideology rather than a purely religious area for the funerary cult of an individual, 
however prestigious. 

Next to the royal pyramid, Zoser's funerary complex exhibits a series of ceremonial 
buildings connected in various ways with the country's religious history and identity. The 
evolution initiated by Zoser and pursued with even greater consistency under his 
successors of the 3rd and 4th Dynasties shows the fixation of a royal ideology typical of a 
mature and well-structured society. The final form of the funerary complex as expressed 
during the 4th Dynasty at Giza and during the 5th Dynasty at Abusir and Saqqara, with 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 40 

its combination of enclosure wall, main pyramid, subsidiary pyramids, mortuary temple, 
causeway and valley temple, surrounded by fields of the private tombs (mastabas or 
rock-cut tombs) of administrative officials, becomes in fact the core structure for the 
development of Egyptian towns, consisting of brick-built private dwellings for the 
personnel in charge of the construction of the buildings and the maintenance of the cult. 

In the domain of private funerary architecture, an explicit sign of centralization in Old 
Kingdom society is represented by the concentration of the administrative officials' 
tombs in the Memphite necropolis, especially in Giza (4th Dynasty) and Saqqara (5th 
Dynasty). These individual mastabas tend to be grouped around the royal funerary 
complexes; the scenes depicted on their walls suggest the cohesive ideology of Egyptian 
society (referred to by the term m 3 et, or ma' at), but perceived from the point of view of 
the aristocracy rather than of the king (as in the pyramid complex). The ideal of a well- 
administered social life and an ordered political hierarchy is depicted in the tombs. 

A parallel symptom of centralization coming from a different aspect of Egyptian 
society during the Old Kingdom is represented by the state monopoly in religious affairs. 
The formula establishing the funerary cult for the individual after his or her death is 
always presented as a "royal concession" (htp-dJ-H:^', literally "an offering given by the 
King"). Similarly, most of the temples known from the Old Kingdom are dedicated either 
to the royal funerary cult or to the worship of the sun god, itself theologically connected 
with the king. During the 4th Dynasty, the king adopts compound names with the sun god 
Re and acquires the title of "son of Re"; the first example is Khufu's successor Djedefre, 
literally "Re-is-durable." Full-fledged theological discourse is developed around the 
figure and the role of the king, as is known to us through the Pyramid Texts, whereas the 
metaphysical status of the individual Egyptian remains largely unspecified. 

During the 5th Dynasty the pyramid loses the monumentality of earlier periods. With 
the development of the Pyramid Texts, it acquires instead primarily the function of 
vehicle of theological discourse. Similarly, during the 5th and 6th Dynasties the tombs of 
the Upper Egyptian nomarchs (provincial governors) not only support the societal ma' at, 
as expressed in the representations of idealized life in the tombs of the residential 
Memphite cemeteries, but also indicate the individual striving for autonomous self- 
realization. This movement of intellectual emancipation becomes particularly explicit in 
the development of the tomb autobiography, the inscriptions on the outer walls of the 
rock-cut tomb in which the owner recounts his individual achievements in the royal 
service. These texts convey a focus on values of competitiveness and career which 
express individual concerns; this individual focus inevitably lessened the elite's total 
commitment to royal (and societal) expectations. In fact, the intellectual divorce between 
the royal residence and the powerful nomarchs eventually becomes one of the main 
causes of that crisis of Old Kingdom society which Egyptologists call the First 
Intermediate Period. 


The fundamental feature of Old Kingdom administration is a central organization of the 
country from Memphis under a vizier (t3jtj z3b '- 0), who combined judiciary and 
executive functions. The central administration was active in the areas of archival 

Old Kingdom 41 

recording, supervision of the state's building activities, taxation, storage and jurisdiction. 
From the 5th Dynasty the Nile Valley, but not the Delta, was placed under the control of 
an "overseer of Upper Egypt," probably residing in Thinis. Both Upper and Lower Egypt 
were divided into "nomes" (sp3t), each governed by a nomarch, represented by a varying 
array of titles. Traditionally, there were 22 nomes in Upper Egypt and 20 in Lower Egypt. 
The office of nomarch involved the loyal representation of the king's (i.e. the state's) 
interest in all areas of economic activity, but from the end of the 5th Dynasty onward, 
when it began to move away from the royal family and to fall under the control of 
powerful local clans, this office gradually became the catalyst of the new, less centralistic 
and more individually oriented culture referred to above. 

An important feature of the country's administration during the Old Kingdom was the 
progressive establishment of pious foundations (similar to the concept of waqf in Islamic 
societies) to ensure the maintenance of the king's mortuary cult in the Memphite pyramid 
towns, of the king's (or the gods') service in provincial temples, and also of the private 
funerary cult of selected members of the aristocracy. The personnel of these settlements 
were exempt from compulsory state corvees. The income from these foundations was 
assigned to those who maintained the cult, an economic decision which favored the 
concentration of wealth in private hands. The consequent crisis of the economic system 
based on the total control by the state of the means of production contributed to the 
profound revision of political structures at the end of the Old Kingdom and during the 
First Intermediate Period. 

International relations 

During the Old Kingdom, Egypt's most important foreign contacts were with the 
neighboring cultures to the south in Lower Nubia. There, the dissolution of the Nubian A- 
culture during the Early Dynastic period in Egypt provoked an increased Egyptian 
attempt on the one hand to create (until the 5th Dynasty) centers of permanent 
occupation, and on the other hand to control the semi-nomadic chiefdoms by means of 
incursions and consequent seizure of animals and men. The autobiographical inscriptions 
in the tombs of Upper Egyptian nomarchs in the 6th Dynasty, particularly that of 
Harkhuf, and the inscriptions they left behind in Nubia are our most important source of 
information for these activities. At the end of the Old Kingdom, with the progressive 
formation in Lower Nubia (called Wawat by the Egyptians) of a new local kingdom, 
replacing the former smaller units referred to in Egyptian texts (mainly Irtjetj, Irtjet, 
Zatju) and probably representing the original structure behind the Nubian C-Group of the 
Middle Kingdom, the Egyptian presence in Nubia changes its patterns and moves to a 
higher degree of parity, with the contemporary presence of Egyptian imports in Lower 
Nubian tombs and of organized Nubian contingents (especially of mercenary soldiers) in 


Farther south, the kingdom of Yam competed with Egypt for control of Lower Nubia. 
As the autobiographical texts show, Yam was located in Upper Nubia to the south of 
Wawat. From the 5th Dynasty onward, as documented by the annals of King Sahure on 
the Palermo Stone, the most important land in this area is coastal Punt. Located along the 
Red Sea around the Bab el-Mandeb, Punt provided Egypt with myrrh and other valuable 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 42 

commodities. Old Kingdom references to the Western Desert, inhabited by Libyan 
populations, are scarce and confined to military confrontations, as documented in the 
autobiography of Harkhuf; however, a 5th Dynasty statue refers to an Egyptian official as 
"governor of the Farafra Oasis," and in the 6th Dynasty we know of an extensive 
Egyptian settlement in the Dakhla Oasis. 

During the Old Kingdom, inscriptions in situ confirm that the Sinai, particularly Wadi 
Maghara and Serabit el-Khadim, was extensively exploited because of its turquoise. For 
the 6th Dynasty, we know not only of military campaigns in the southern urbanized 
portion of Palestine from autobiographies (e.g. Weni) as well as from tomb 
representations, but also of contacts between Egypt and the Syrian kingdom of Ebla (Tell 
Mardikh) as early as the 4th-6th Dynasties. But the most intensive relations between 
Egypt and the Levant during the Old Kingdom were undoubtedly with Byblos on the 
Phoenician coast. Byblos was the main center for trade in timber and resin, as proven by 
the presence of Egyptian objects in the local temples throughout the whole period. 
Contacts with the Aegean region, while made likely by scattered objects from the Old 
Kingdom in the Aegean world, cannot be established with any degree of certitude. 

Intellectual and religious life 

The Old Kingdom is the period of the gradual development of structures of religious 
belief and of patterns of social behavior which remained characteristic for Egypt 
throughout pharaonic history. During the Old Kingdom, Egyptian culture experiences the 
need to find a unifying model for three independent dimensions of religious life: (1) the 
worship of the gods; (2) the representativeness of the king; and (3) the maintenance of the 
private funerary cult. 

The ideology resulting from the blending of these conflicting dimensions is known to 
us through the Pyramid Texts, the corpus of spells and hymns dating to the 5th Dynasty; 
these have traditionally been taken to present the theological views of the school of 
thought centered around the cult of the sun god at Heliopolis. In this corpus the dead king 
is both Osiris, as dynastic ancestor of the reigning king (i.e. Horus), and Re, as the sun 
god who reappears daily at the eastern horizon, whose son is once more the king of Egypt 
himself. The description of the dead king's condition in the afterworld thus comes 
ultimately very close to a presentation of the Egyptian religious world view. As the 
unifying factor of Egyptian society, the Old Kingdom monarch is at the same time creator 
and beneficiary of its cohesiveness. If the private funerary cult needs the king as 
intermediary between the individual and the funerary gods (in the Old Kingdom, 
especially Anubis), the king also needs Egypt and her people as a stage for the fulfillment 
of his functions: cosmic as sun god, mythical as Horus, and ritual as the gods' sole priest 
on earth. 

This model of interaction between "royal divinity" (rather than the "divine kingship" 
frequently displayed by other civilizations of the ancient world) and "kingly society" is 
best rendered by the Egyptian concept of ma' at, a word originally meaning "foundation," 
which then acquired the sense of "truth, justice," but which should probably be rendered 
as "Egyptian encyclopedia," in the sense that it summarizes the political and ethical 

Old Kingdom 43 

values of Old Kingdom society: social cohesion, performance of the funerary cult, and 
service to the king. 

Fixation of linguistic and artistic canons 

After experiments in the Early Dynastic period, a phase still characterized by a high 
degree of variety in many areas of Egyptian culture, the Old Kingdom is the period 
during which the canons governing Egyptian civilization throughout its historical 
development were uniformly fixed. In the area of language, the Pyramid Texts and the 
tomb autobiographies are the main textual sources for the written language of the Old 
Kingdom, usually called Old Egyptian. In terms of graphic system, of grammatical 
structures and of vocabulary, this phase of the history of the Egyptian language represents 
the basis for the development of the literary language of the Middle Kingdom, which is 
usually referred to as "Classical Egyptian." The rigid organization and the social values 
of Old Kingdom society also remain a source of inspiration for later Egyptian literature. 
Particularly noteworthy in this context are the pseudepigraphic attribution of Middle 
Kingdom wisdom texts to sages of the Old Kingdom (such as Ptahhotep), the mention of 
Old Kingdom pharaohs in the narrative literature of the Middle Kingdom (for example, 
Seneferu, Khufu, Hardjedef and the 5th Dynasty origins of the Tales of Papyrus Westcar, 
or Seneferu in the Prophecy of Neferti), and the "classicistic" reference to the great 
literati of the past (including Old Kingdom figures such as Hardjedef, Imhotep, Ptahhotep 
in Papyrus Chester Beatty IV) in Ramesside school literature. 

The same holds true for artistic conventions. In architecture and sculpture the rules of 
construction and decoration of temples and tombs and the canon of proportions, which 
will remain a constant characteristic of Egyptian civilization, are formalized. Here too, 
the Old Kingdom maintains its paradigmatic function throughout pharaonic history, being 
the era to which later periods will look back as the most successful compound of the 
ideological values and the intellectual features of Egyptian culture as a whole. 

See also 

Abusir; C-Group culture; Dahshur, the Bent Pyramid; Egyptian language and writing; 
kingship; ma' at; Manetho; Memphite private tombs of the Old Kingdom; Meydum; 
nome structure; Old Kingdom provincial tombs; representational evidence, Old Kingdom 
private tombs; Saqqara, pyramids of the 3rd Dynasty; Saqqara, pyramids of the 5th and 
6th Dynasties; textual sources, Old Kingdom; trade, foreign 

Further reading 

Kemp, B.J. 1989. Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization. London. 

Posener-Krieger, P. 1976. Les archives du temple funeraire de Neferirkare-Kaka'i (Les papyrus 

d'Abousir). Traduction et commentaire. BdE 65:1-2. Cairo. 
Redford, D.B. 1986. Pharaonic King-lists, Annals and Day-books: a Contribution to the Study of 

the Egyptian Sense of History (SSEA 4). Mississauga. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 44 

Smith, W.S. 1971. The Old Kingdom in Egypt and the beginning of the First Intermediate Period. 

In The Cambridge Ancient History 1/2 A: 145-207. Cambridge. 
Stadelmann, R. 1991. Die dgyptischen Pyramiden: vom Ziegelbau zum Weltwunder 

(Kulturgeschichte der Antiken Welt 30). Mainz. 


First Intermediate Period, overview 

The term "First Intermediate Period" has been employed by scholars to mean either the 
period of the 7th-llth Dynasties or that from the 9th to mid- 11th Dynasties. The 
designation is still useful when referring to the period from the 7th Dynasty to 
preconquest 11th Dynasty in its entirety, when there was political fragmentation of the 
centralized state of the Old Kingdom. The designations "late Old Kingdom" and 
"Heracleopolitan period," referring respectively to the 7th-8th Dynasties and the 9th- 
10th Dynasties, are more specific. 

There is still significant disagreement over the length of the First Intermediate Period. 
Several years ago consensus seemed to have been reached that the length of the period 
from the end of the 6th Dynasty to the reunification of Egypt by Nebhepetre Mentuhotep 
II amounted to approximately 140 years. More recently, a number of scholars have 
argued that the First Intermediate Period lasted approximately 230 years. This position, 
which accepts the historical reality of the early Heracleopolitan period (9th Dynasty), is 
adopted here. 

As one scholar has observed, the First Intermediate Period "was the consequence of a 
cumulative loss of wealth and power on the part of the throne extending over a period of 
200 years." In the 5th Dynasty and thereafter, a lesser share of the country's wealth was 
expended on the king's tomb than in the 4th Dynasty, and other institutions, including the 
temples of the gods (especially the official sun cult of Re), benefitted from the growing 

As additional land was brought under cultivation in the course of the later Old 
Kingdom, both through internal colonization and as a result of a burgeoning population, 
the bureaucracy that administered the country also increased in size. The king had of 
necessity to assign tracts of agricultural land from the royal domain to a variety of 
institutions and individuals for their support. The produce from what had once been 
crown lands not only served to maintain the royal and divine cults along with their 
buildings, but also provided the priests and support staff with an income. Further grants 
of land made to officials of the central administration compensated the latter for their 
services. Frequently, the tracts of land remained part and parcel of the mortuary 
endowment of these officials in order that they might continue serving their sovereign in 
the next world. In turn, the priests and officials subdivided the former crown lands for the 
benefit of their families and dependents. This exchange of goods and services permitted 
the state to function and led to a more equitable distribution of wealth, which is reflected 
in the increased size and complexity of the tombs of officials in the Memphite cemeteries 
in the later Old Kingdom. However, the revenue owed the royal treasury was increasingly 
diminished. Ultimately this led to the impoverishment of the monarchy, which could no 
longer afford to support the infrastructure of government. 

In the meantime, the initiative appears to have shifted to the provinces. Provincial 
administration had originally been divided into different branches of activity, each 
centrally administered from the capital. With the growing prosperity of the provinces, 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 46 

however, the business of managing a single nome became more complicated and 
ultimately the entire administration of a nome was given to a single individual who lived 
in the nome and became firmly entrenched there. The process is first observable in 
southern Upper Egypt, but in time the new type of provincial administration was 
extended to central and northern Upper Egypt. Eventually the office of provincial 
governor (nomarch) became hereditary. A number of kings attempted to bring these 
developments under control. Pepi II appears to have made a final attempt to reassert 
central authority; after his death, however, the temples in many of the provinces also 
came under the control of the nomarchs, or, vice versa, the chief priests became 
nomarchs, and the authority and wealth of the provincial governors was greatly enhanced. 

The long reign of Pepi II (more than 90 years) ushered in the end of the Old Kingdom. 
Pepi's immediate successors were his own sons. Already of advanced age at the death of 
their father, they each ruled for only a few years. The pyramid of the 8th Dynasty king 
Kakare Ibi at South Saqqara was not much larger than the subsidiary pyramids belonging 
to the queens of Pepi II, and its size and the lack of the customary associated structures in 
stone clearly demonstrate the diminution of the king's personal prestige. 

With the collapse of the central government, foreign trade languished. Pepi II is the 
last king mentioned in inscriptions at Byblos. Also after Pepi II there is no evidence of 
expeditions in the Sinai turquoise mines. One text describes a ship's captain who was 
engaged at the Gulf of Suez to build a boat for an expedition to Punt, but he and his 
company of soldiers were killed by local Asiatics, and had to be revenged. Relations with 
the south also deteriorated. One "caravan leader" was sent out from Aswan with an 
armed force to punish the tribal chiefs of Lower Nubia. At about the same time there is 
evidence that Nubians encroached on Egyptian territory, presumably through the desert 
via Kharga Oasis and then into the Nile Valley. A rock inscription at Khor Dehmit, some 
36km south of the First Cataract, records a punitive expedition against local Nubians 
dispatched by one of the last kings of the 8th Dynasty. In apparent frustration, the kings 
of the late Old Kingdom or their officials appear to have resorted to magic to destroy 
their enemies (especially southern ones). Enemies' names or the names of ethnic/tribal 
groups were inked on crude clay figurines, which were put in clay jars and ritually 

Royal decrees of the late Old Kingdom excavated beneath the ruins of a Roman period 
mudbrick structure at Quft (ancient Coptos) demonstrate that the Memphite kings of the 
8th Dynasty still retained some degree of authority over Upper Egypt, even though this 
control may have depended to some extent on a dynastic alliance with a prominent Upper 
Egyptian family from Coptos. Shemai of Coptos married a daughter of one of the kings 
of the 8th Dynasty and was appointed vizier and overseer of Upper Egypt. At his death, 
his son Idi became vizier and governor of the 22 nomes of Upper Egypt. The connection 
between the king at Memphis and Coptos appears to have survived the change of 
dynasty; Idi himself may have gone on to serve as vizier for the first of a new line of 
kings from Heracleopolis (9th-10th Dynasties) in the Fayum. At the beginning of the 9th 
Dynasty a "king's eldest son" named User was the nomarch of the province where 
Coptos was located, and was buried at Khozam on its southern border. 

Little evidence survives regarding the transition between the late Memphite and 
Heracleopolitan periods. We have only the historian Manetho's statement that the first 
King Khety was "terrible beyond all before him." Balancing this negative assessment is 

First intermediate period 47 

the fact that the early Heracleopolitan sovereigns were seemingly content to continue the 
system of provincial administration inherited from their Memphite predecessors. After an 
initial period of consolidation, however, their successors appear to have made a concerted 
effort to assert the authority of the crown over the southernmost nomes of Egypt. In a 
number of places, certainly at Dendera and Naga ed-Deir, the title of nomarch was 
abolished and the nomes were administered through the local overseers of priests, who 
were brought under the direct control of an "overseer of Upper Egypt." The resentment 
caused by such administrative reforms, and the consequent disenfranchisement of the 
nomarchic families, may help to explain why southern Upper Egypt ultimately rallied to 
the polity centered at Thebes. 

When trouble came, it began in the far south. Here, the narrowness of the cultivated 
land and a series of disastrously low Nile floods had led to a famine so severe that some 
resorted to cannibalism, if a local ruler, Ankhtify of Mo'alla, is to be believed. In this 
desperate time, when refugees fled north and south searching for food, a simple border 
dispute may have led to open hostilities between Ankhtify and his counterpart in the 
Theban nome to the north. 

Ankhtify was nomarch of Nome III of Upper Egypt, but had previously added Nome 
II of Upper Egypt to his domain, possibly by force. He also laid claim to the office of 
"commander of the army of Upper Egypt" from Elephantine to Armant. Armant, 
however, lay in the Theban nome and when the Thebans, in alliance with the Coptites, 
besieged the fortress, hostilities began in earnest. Grain became a tool of diplomacy and 
Ankhtify appears to have used it to purchase the neutrality of the nomes of Dendera and 
Thinis, and succeeded in isolating Thebes and Coptos politically. Since both sides of the 
struggle paid lip service to the king in far away Memphis, it is difficult to know what role 
the latter played in these local squabbles. Ankhtify appears to have prevailed, but soon 
after his death, the Theban nomarch Intef "the Great" triumphed, bringing the six 
southernmost nomes under his control as "Great Overlord of Upper Egypt." In the next 
generation the Theban nomarch Mentuhotep I repudiated the overlordship of 
Heracleopolis and founded the 11th Dynasty. 

From the end of the Old Kingdom, Asiatic pastoralists had been infiltrating the Delta. 
By the early 10th Dynasty, when the Heracleopolitan rulers were engaged in a struggle 
with the Thebans for control of Upper Egypt, the Asiatics had occupied much of the 
Delta and the east bank of the Nile as far south as Beni Hasan in Middle Egypt. Armed 
bands of Asiatics plunged the entire Delta into chaos, and the Heracleopolitans 
apparently retained firm control only in the area of Memphis, the Fayum and parts of 
Middle Egypt. This much is known from the important political testament written by a 
later Heracleopolitan sovereign for his son and successor, Merikare. While the 
Heracleopolitans were absorbed with the Asiatic menace, the Theban king (11th 
Dynasty), Wahankh Intef, seized Nome VIII of Upper Egypt along with the important 
towns of Abydos, the seat of the Upper Egyptian administration since the Old Kingdom, 
and Thinis, the provincial capital. In the aftermath of the conquest of Abydos, an uneasy 
peace prevailed between the two kingdoms. There was at least one attempt by the 
Heracleopolitans to regain Abydos, but the Thebans successfully fought off the attack. 

Meanwhile in the north, a vigorous Heracleopolitan monarch named Khety, like the 
founder of his line, drove the Asiatics out of Middle Egypt and the Delta, secured Egypt's 
boundaries and provided the northern kingdom with a new lease on life. In the fourteenth 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 48 

year of the reign of Wahankh Intef's grandson, Mentuhotep II, presumably at the 
instigation of this King Khety, Thinis rebelled and, supported by a Heracleopolitan army 
under the command of the nomarch Tefibi of Asyut, threw off the Theban yoke. It was 
perhaps at this point that the Heracleopolitan and Theban kingdoms adopted the policy of 
peaceful coexistence, which King Khety urged upon his son in the famous literary work, 
the Instruction for Merikare. Mentuhotep II turned his attention to the oases and Nubia, 
and the Heracleopolitans were once again able to obtain red granite from the quarries at 

Both kingdoms, however, were marshaling their resources for the final struggle. The 
individual stages in that struggle are impossible to document. However, since 
Mentuhotep II changed his Horus name to Sm3-t3wy ("Uniter of the Two Lands") 
sometime around his thirty-ninth regnal year, it was probably at about that time that the 
Theban king subdued his Heracleopolitan adversaries and founded the Middle Kingdom. 

Although earlier notions of social upheaval and anarchy aimed at overthrowing the 
established order of society are probably to be rejected, there is evidence to suggest a 
leveling of social distinctions and a certain redistribution of wealth in the course of the 
First Intermediate Period. As provincial courts on the royal pattern coalesced around the 
nomarchs, an increasing number of individuals joined the official class. High-ranking 
titles, such as "hereditary prince" and "count," which were originally granted only to the 
most important officers of the royal administration, gradually became cheapened and 
were claimed by virtually anyone of the least importance. Quite ordinary people now 
made funerary monuments, usually in the form of simple rectangular tombstones or 
stelae. Hundreds of these stelae, carved with a funerary prayer, a portrait of the owner 
and, not uncommonly, a short autobiographical statement, survive. Ordinary people in the 
Old Kingdom left few monuments, but the hundreds of stelae from the First Intermediate 
Period attest to the changed circumstances. 

The autobiographies on the stelae reveal that the men of the "new middle class" were 
independent and self-reliant. They were also acquisitive, inclined to the procurement of 
land, herds and riches of every kind. Frequently, they claimed to be self-made men. At 
the same time they were civic-minded, and helped to organize the food supplies of their 
towns, maintained or extended local irrigation systems, set up ferry services and 
benefitted their fellow citizens in a variety of other ways. They occasionally extended 
their largesse to other towns and even to neighboring nomes. The texts of the period also 
attest to a movement of the population from district to district, perhaps in search of a safe 
haven from the intermittent warfare that later plagued much of Egypt or relief from the 
recurrent famines. Certain areas may have been depopulated as a result of a series of low 
Nile floods, and this internal migration was encouraged by the local princes who found 
themselves in the position of repopulating abandoned settlements. In some cases the 
newcomers were enticed by the promise of enhanced social status. At the end of the 
Heracleopolitan period, however, a reaction set in. Epithets at Asyut, Thebes and 
elsewhere, such as "a spirit of ancient days" or "a prince of the beginning of time," 
seemingly reflect an effort on the part of the nomarchs and other high officials to assert 
themselves and lay claim to hereditary prerogatives. 

In recent years, the earlier notion of a "Heracleopolitan intellectual movement" has 
been questioned. Several literary compositions (including the Eloquent Peasant) formerly 
ascribed to the this period have been assigned to the early 12th Dynasty. Attempts have 

First intermediate period 49 

even been made to reassign the great classic of Heracleopolitan literature, the Instruction 
for Merikare, to the later period. According to Gerhart Fecht, the Instruction was 
composed in the metric system of the Old Kingdom, however, and there are affinities 
between the idiom of the composition and that of Heracleopolitan period and early 11th 
Dynasty autobiographical texts. The lengthy autobiographical inscriptions in tombs 
dating to the Heracleopolitan period, especially those of Idi at Kom el-Kuffar, Ankhtify 
at Mo'alla, and Tefibi and Khety II at Asyut, and the shorter texts on contemporaneous 
private stelae, exhibit considerable inventiveness and originality, and attest to the literary 
creativity of the times. In the realm of art and architecture, the Heracleopolitan dynasties 
played an important role in preserving the traditions of the Old Kingdom and passing 
them on intact, albeit reinterpreted, to the Middle Kingdom. 

See also 

Aswan; Asyut; Beni Hasan; Deir el-Bahri, Mentuhotep II complex; Elephantine; funerary 
texts; Manetho; Middle Kingdom, overview; Naga ed-Deir; Old Kingdom, overview; 
Punt; Quft/Qift (Coptos); textual sources, Middle Kingdom; Thebes, el-Tarif, saff-tombs; 
trade, foreign 

Further reading 

Baer K. 1960. Rank and Title in the Old Kingdom. Chicago. 

Bell, B. 1971. The Dark Ages in ancient history. AJA 75:1-26. 

Fecht, G. 1972. Der Vorwurf angott in den mahnworten des ipu-wer. Heidelberg. 

Fischer, H.G. 1964. Inscriptions from the Coptite Nome Dynasties VI-XI (Analecta Orientalia 40). 

. 1968. Dendera in the Third Millennium B.C. down to the Theban Domination of Upper 

Egypt. Locust Valley, NY. 
Goedicke, H. 1967. Konigliche Dokumente des Alten Reich. Wiesbaden. 

Lichtheim, M. 1973. Ancient Egyptian Literature 1: The Old and Middle Kingdoms. Berkeley, CA. 
. 1988. Ancient Egyptian Autobiographies Chiefly of the Middle Kingdom. Freiburg and 

Redford, D.B. 1986. Egypt and Western Asia in the Old Kingdom. JARCE 23:125-43. 
Schenkel, W. 1975. Reperes chronologiques de l'histoire redactionnelle des Coffin Texts. Actes du 

XXIXe Congres international des Orientalistes, Egyptologie 2:98-103. Paris. 


Middle Kingdom, overview 

With his victory over the forces of the northern kingdom of Heracleopolis and the 
resulting end of the civil war around 2040 BC, the Theban Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II, the 
fifth king of the 11th Dynasty, became sole ruler of Egypt, taking on the name "Uniter- 
of-the-Two-Lands." Although he had to wage a few military campaigns against 
remaining dissidents, he is best remembered for peacetime activities, notably his 
reorganization of the country and the building of his funerary complex at Deir el-Bahri. 

Mentuhotep II' s funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri shows various stages of decoration, 
both pre- and post-reunification. The war is commemorated on the monument, in the 
numerous scenes of soldiers in the throes of battle. The peacetime reliefs show, for 
example, the king participating in ritual hunting, the royal family and their attendants at 
the court and the ubiquitous rows of offering bearers. The design of the funerary temple 
was original and revolutionary, revealing a vigorous palace, eager for a fresh start. 

The funerary temple, along with a great number of other buildings erected in Upper 
Egypt at the time, demonstrates how the crown held a firmer control over the country's 
resources. Such building activities presume a confident administration. It was able to 
support large contingents of craftsmen and workers who were sent to the desert areas in 
search of the necessary building materials. It also possessed a diligent bureaucracy able to 
see to the logistical requirements of such expeditions. Mentuhotep II needed able officials 
to re-establish the central administration. He wisely chose not only from his fellow 
Thebans, although these naturally formed the bulk of his cabinet, but also from the elite 
of the now defeated northern realm. 

Another change at this time are the inscriptions left in the quarries. Whereas Old 
Kingdom texts from the mines and quarries — simple excerpts of the royal documents that 
commissioned the missions — only showed the leaders' names and titles, along with the 
name of the king who had sent them, the Middle Kingdom officials included 
autobiographical statements detailing the success of their missions. Long strings of self- 
praising epithets now occupied major portions of their texts. These epithets had long been 
known from the autobiographical statements carved on the walls of the Old Kingdom 
funerary chapels, but their increased use at this time underscores the self-reliance 
acquired during the troubled times of the civil war. 

The two kings who succeeded Mentuhotep II, Sankhare Mentuhotep III and 
Newtawyre Mentuhotep IV, achieved some success, erecting buildings and sending out 
large quarrying and mining expeditions, but their reigns brought the history of the 11th 
Dynasty to an end. Suddenly a new family — the 12th Dynasty — established itself on the 
throne of Egypt, led by a king who called himself the "Horus Repeating-Births" (i.e. 
"Renaissance"), the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, He-who-propitiates-the-heart-of- 
Re, the son of Re, Amenemhat. Who these upstarts were and where they came from 
cannot be known, although a literary composition states they were from southern Egypt. 
It is, however, tempting to equate this Amenemhat with the similarly named vizier under 

Middle Kingdom 5 1 

King Mentuhotep IV. The obvious surmise is that he skillfully took over the reigns of 
office after the demise of Mentuhotep IV. 

At the beginning of his reign, Amenemhat I was mostly content to follow the lead of 
his 11th Dynasty predecessors. The capital city remained at Thebes, and the king 
presumably established his own court there. Construction began on a temple at Karnak to 
celebrate the growing importance of the god Amen. Amenemhat I's funerary temple was 
also begun on the west bank of Thebes, in a valley just south of Mentuhotep II' s own 
temple at Deir el-Bahri. Although the complex was never finished, it is clear that 
Amenemhat I had chosen Thebes as his first burial ground, betraying his own southern 

One responsibility the new ruler had to oversee immediately was his relationship with 
the provincial overlords (known as "nomarchs"). During the civil war, the nomarchs had 
grown ever more independent from the royal house, and had also encroached upon one 
another's territories. If the central government was to have any success dealing with these 
recalcitrant rulers, the king had to forcefully establish his authority over them at the 
outset of his rule. He accomplished this by personally touring the country and re- 
establishing the provinces' boundaries, ensuring order by using the old records to settle 
any disputes. The king also reserved the right to confirm a nomarch's son in place of his 
father, thus ensuring a properly approved succession of nomarchs devoted to the crown. 
Furthermore, Amenemhat I installed one of his own representatives in the provinces to 
ensure the proper accounting of all revenues owed to the crown. 

At the same time, Amenemhat I could not simply ignore the nomarchs' claims to a 
certain independence. Therefore, the latter were allowed to date texts according to their 
own tenure instead of the king's, have their own courts, collect their own revenues, 
maintain a small militia, and erect buildings in their domains. This careful compromise 
between control and latitude over the provincial rulers served the 12th Dynasty in good 
stead for well over a century. 

Some time before his twentieth year on the throne, Amenemhat I suffered an 
unsuccessful assassination attempt. This may have prompted him to introduce one of his 
most striking innovations, the institution of coregency. In his twentieth regnal year, 
Amenemhat I installed his son Senusret (I) on the throne alongside him as an equal 
Horus-king. In practice, the younger partner assumed the more strenuous activities of 
kingship, while the older ruler remained in the palace, overseeing the affairs of state. This 
system worked surprisingly well for the 12th Dynasty, as son succeeded father for nearly 
200 years. 

The assassination attempt may also have prompted another major decision by 
Amenemhat I. Toward the end of his reign, the royal residence moved from Thebes to a 
newly founded city named Amenemhat-It-tawy ("Amenemhat-takes-possession-of-the- 
Two-Lands"). Although its exact location is unknown, the new residence was probably 
situated just south of Memphis, possibly at modern-day el-Lisht near the pyramids of 
Amenemhat I and Senusret I. Perhaps Amenemhat I wished to disassociate himself from 
the memory of the previous dynasty. The move to the Memphite area also associated the 
12th Dynasty with the great ruling families of old, a connection that helped establish 
them as the legitimate monarchs. According to literary tradition, Amenemhat I died in the 
thirtieth year of his reign. His demise appears to have been sudden, taking his coregent 
Senusret I by surprise and possibly hinting at foul play, but the sources do not actually 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 52 

indicate this. If Amenemhat I had indeed been the vizier under King Mentuhotep IV, he 
must have been of a fairly advanced age after thirty years on the throne. By the time of 
his accession as sole ruler, Senusret I had already served ten years as coregent and was 
thus ready to take on the affairs of state. He further consolidated his family's hold on the 
throne through the skillful use of literature as political propaganda. The so-called 
Prophecy of Neferty recounted how the 12th Dynasty had been foretold by a sage from 
the great days of King Seneferu (4th Dynasty). The Story of Sinuhe shrewdly wove into 
the wonderful adventures of its hero Sinuhe long hymns of praise to Senusret I. The 
humorous Satire on the Trades, in which various occupations are unfavourably compared 
to the comfortable and authoritative life of a scribe, was used to furnish a burgeoning 
bureaucracy with new recruits. 

The central administration itself retained much of the same structure it had acquired 
since the Old Kingdom. The senior administrator was still the vizier; he had his main 
office at the capital city, of which he was also mayor, and he was involved with a great 
many administrative and judicial matters. The major ministries were the Treasury, called 
the "White House," which was the repository of various goods and commodities; the 
Granary, which was responsible for supervising the harvesting, recording and subsequent 
storing of the crops; and the Office of Labor, under the Overseer of all Royal Works, 
which administered and provided the labor force. Other large departments, such as the 
Offices of the Fields and of Cattle (whose responsibilities were self-evident), are known 
for this period. Also attested are the armed forces, which included the army, the navy and 
a police department. 

Senusret I undertook a building program that produced a great number of monuments 
from Elephantine to the Delta. Included among the projects were a vast court and a kiosk 
at the temple of Amen at Karnak, perhaps initiated during the coregency period when the 
12th Dynasty still resided in Thebes. His reign was also a great period of non-royal 
activity at the pilgrimage site of Abydos, when vast numbers of cenotaphs were built and 
furnished with commemorative stelae. The growth in the demand for such stelae at this 
time demonstrates the stability and security that allowed people to travel the length and 
breadth of the country to place their stelae at Abydos. The texts on these stelae consist 
mostly of self-glorifying epithets, demonstrating again the individualism of a self- 
assertive society. These epithets may, in fact, be the blueprint of the "perfect society," 
where all members, from the high officials to the lesser bureaucrats, fall in line and 
simply catalog the road to their own success. 

Although the 12th Dynasty is not generally known for militaristic policies, Senusret I 
managed to strengthen his frontiers with well-aimed military campaigns. His relations 
with regions to the northeast seem to have been mostly defensive, and at least one 
campaign is attested against Egypt's Libyan neighbors. In Nubia, Senusret I conducted 
military campaigns and subsequently built a series of forts between the First and the 
Second Cataracts, which laid full claim to the area south of Egypt and prepared the way 
for the eventual full conquest of Lower Nubia later in the 12th Dynasty. 

A certain amount of military activity is also demonstrated in the reign of the next king, 
Amenemhat II, part of whose court annals were recorded on a large stela discovered at 
Memphis. This document mentions armies sent out "to hack up" parts of Syria, Lebanon 
and possibly even Cyprus. Although such statements are often interpreted as propaganda, 
the armies are then described as returning laden with prisoners of war and much booty. In 

Middle Kingdom 53 

addition, foreigners from southwest Asia and different areas of Nubia are mentioned as 
coming into Egypt, presenting products from their own countries to the court. Although 
the Egyptian annals present these offerings as tribute from subject countries, what may 
have been recorded was the common practice of gift giving between rulers, part of an 
established ancient Near Eastern tradition wherein rulers acknowledged one another's 

The reign of the following king, Senusret II, is best remembered for his pyramid at 
Lahun, near the entrance of the Fayum oasis. East of the structure was the pyramid town 
of Lahun, a new settlement built to house the priests and administrators of the royal 
mortuary cult. The town shows all the earmarks of a planned settlement, with its grid 
system of well-laid-out streets and town houses, and its hierarchical arrangement of 
wealthier and poorer sections. The "wealthy neighborhood" was placed on higher ground, 
to afford it a better view and, presumably, better air. This heavy governmental hand can 
also be seen in the 12th Dynasty's conscious remodeling of older town sites. 

Senusret III, the next king, must be remembered as one of the greatest rulers in 
Egyptian history. His reign witnessed a major administrative changeover to a highly 
centralized government and a final conquest of Nubia. Egypt had always coveted the 
products of Africa to the south and therefore felt a strong need to protect, indeed to 
control, the trade routes coming from the upper Nile. The conquest itself was 
accomplished through military campaigns in the King's eighth, tenth, twelfth, sixteenth 
and nineteenth regnal years. Senusret III was clearly determined to subjugate the area 
once and for all. The result was the establishment of Nubia as an Egyptian possession, 
and the territory was actively occupied by an Egyptian population stationed there. Egypt 
completely controlled the desert region on both sides of the Nile, as well as all river 

Like his earlier 12th Dynasty predecessors, Senusret III now established a second 
series of forts along the Second Cataract. As with the town of Lahun, these forts reflect 
the all-pervasive presence of the central administration. The forts themselves were 
elaborate constructions, with wide mudbrick walls, towers, bastions and other 
architectural elements to permit an easy defense of the buildings. The interiors of the 
fortresses were carefully laid out, with a symmetrical grid of streets flanked by housing 
of different sizes for the various strata of society garrisoned there. Included were cultic 
places, workshops areas and the ubiquitous granaries, which in some cases reached 
surprisingly large proportions. 

Although the actual title of the commanders of the forts has not yet been identified, the 
forts seem to have been governed by both military and civil administrators. In fact, the 
variety of Egyptian officials in the Nubian colonies is noteworthy. Staff from nearly all 
facets of the central administration are attested in texts found either in the forts 
themselves or on graffiti engraved in the area. Included are a wide range of palace 
officials, agents of nearly all the major ministries: the Treasury, the Granary, the Offices 
of Provisioning, of the Fields, of Cattle and of Labor, and the Ministry of Justice. A great 
number of military titles are represented as well. All these officials were sent to oversee 
and protect the newly acquired crown possessions. 

The other major event of Senusret Ill's reign is the almost complete disappearance of 
the great nomarchical families. The surviving evidence, however, is concerned only with 
the great families of Middle Egypt; very little is known about the rest of the country at 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 54 

this time. Some of those Middle Egypt overlords even left unfinished tombs behind in 
their provinces, preferring to be buried near the king at the royal burial grounds. How this 
change was accomplished is not known, but the most likely explanation is that the King 
simply refused to confirm the sons of nomarchs in their fathers' positions, and then 
integrated them into the higher echelons of administration. What has often been 
interpreted as a fall of the nomarchs may simply have been part of a major administrative 
change, whereby a loosely knit organization was transformed into a tightly centralized 
government, focused around the capital city. 

The major ministries mentioned above seem to have been little affected by this 
change, although additional powers may have accrued to them under the new 
centralization. One new creation was the Office of the Provider of People, which was 
responsible for registering and assigning the manpower necessary for the various projects 
at hand. The other major change was the division of the country into three main sectors: 
the "District of the North," which held sway over the area north of the capital; the 
"District of the South," which administered Middle Egypt; and the "District of the Head 
of the South," which was responsible for the nine southernmost nomes. The whole was 
governed from two major centers: the royal residence in the Memphite area in the north, 
and Thebes in the south. Each district was administered by a herald, who was in turn 
assisted by a second herald, under whom were Councils of Functionaries and a large 
scribal staff. Other officials involved were the /cenbet-councillors, who were sent to the 
provinces on government business. At the lowest level, the towns were under the 
authority of local mayors. 

The new centralization seems to have affected more than the political level. The 
wealth of the country was now concentrated around the royal residence, as well as a few 
large cities such as Abydos, Thebes and Elephantine. Resources previously circulating in 
the provinces were now presumably diverted toward the central treasury and 
subsequently redistributed to the now expanded civil service. Culturally, this is 
demonstrated by the disappearance of the large provincial cemeteries, which had become 
too expensive to maintain, and the increase of so-called "middle class burials." The 
earlier Middle Kingdom burial equipment, with its elaborate wooden models and 
extensive use of the so-called Coffin Texts, was now replaced by amulets and magical 
tools, which had already been used in everyday life. Also during the late Middle 
Kingdom a vastly increasing number of commemorative stelae were left at Abydos by 
middle-rank administrators. That these minor officials could now afford to have such 
stelae made is another testament to the broadening of powers placed in the hands of a 
burgeoning bureaucracy. 

It was then left to the next ruler, Amenemhat III, to reap the rewards of Senusret Ill's 
vigorous policies. His father had left Amenemhat III with what amounted to an Egyptian 
dependency on his southern border as well as the strongest centralized government since 
the days of the high Old Kingdom. Amenemhat III was thus able to embark on a full- 
scale exploitation of mines and quarries. Great numbers of texts are known from the 
turquoise and copper mines of the Sinai; from the alabaster, limestone and schist quarries 
of Hatnub, Tura and the Wadi Hammamat, respectively; the granite and diorite quarries 
of Aswan and Nubia; and the amethyst mines of the Wadi el-Hudi. These activities 
significantly increased the crown's revenues, which the King could distribute at will to 

Middle Kingdom 55 

loyal officers. This new wealth created the kind of dependency a highly centralized 
government needed to sustain itself. 

Amenemhat III also embarked on a building program that saw him erecting, or adding 
to, structures in most major sites in Egypt. His greatest architectural works, however, 
were in the Fayum. Although the Fayum is well represented in Old Kingdom sources, it 
is the 12th Dynasty and Amenemhat III in particular who are forever associated with this 
oasis southwest of the residence city. In the Middle Kingdom, declining flood levels 
occasioned a lowering of the level of Lake Moeris in the Fayum, exposing a substantial 
area of land for cultivation and construction. This may have provided the impetus for 
renewed activity in the Fayum area, and the 12th Dynasty lost no time in exploiting this 
newly available land. 

Both Amenemhat I and Senusret I added to an existing temple of Sobek of Shedyet. 
Senusret II built his pyramid there, and a literary tradition places a royal residence or rest- 
house in the Fayum area. Yet it is Amenemhat III— in the guise of King Lamarres, a 
reworking of his prenomen Ni-ma'at-Re, or King Moeris — who was remembered in later 
legends as a great builder and the excavator of the lake that took his name. Amenemhat 
III left a great number of structures in the Fayum: additions to the temple of Sobek of 
Shedyet; the shrine dedicated to the goddess Renenutet; the colossi at Biahmu, well- 
known to the classical authors; and his second pyramid at Hawara (his first pyramid at 
Dahshur had suffered a structural accident, which forced him to abandon it). To the south 
of the Hawara pyramid was its funerary temple, called a "labyrinth" by the classical 

After a long reign, Amenemhat III was succeeded by his son Amenemhat IV, who 
reigned only briefly and is chiefly remembered for continuing his father's policies. Next 
came Queen Sobekneferu, daughter of Amenemhat III and wife of Amenemhat IV, who 
reigned a short three years. With her ended the great dynasty of the Amenemhats and the 
Senusrets. The Middle Kingdom continued with the 13th Dynasty. In spite of the great 
number of kings in this dynasty, a few powerful rulers did maintain a strong presence on 
the throne. Royal building activities continued on a large scale, and the Egyptian throne 
was still respected in Nubia and Syria. As long as the capital city remained at It-tawy, the 
new centralized government continued to operate in full force, indicating no breakdown 
in central authority for some time. Although the period of the 13th Dynasty is obscure 
because of the paucity of historical records, the impression left is that of a secure nation 
going about its business as usual, unaware of the troubles ahead. 

See also 

Abydos, Middle Kingdom cemetery; administrative bureaucracy; Asyut; Beni Hasan; 
Dahshur, Middle Kingdom pyramids; Deir el-Bahri, Mentuhotep II complex; First 
Intermediate Period, overview; Gebel Zeit; Hatnub; Hawara; Heracleopolis; Lahun, 
pyramid complex of Senusret II; Lahun, town; el-Lisht; Mazghuna; natural resources; 
Nubian forts; Saqqara, pyramids of the 13th Dynasty; Second Intermediate Period, 
overview; Serabit el-Khadim; textual sources, Middle Kingdom; Thebes, el-Tarif, saff- 
tombs; Tura, Dynastic burials and quarries; Wadi el-Hudi; Wadi Maghara 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 56 

Further reading 

Arnold, D. 1991. Amenemhat I and the early Twelfth Dynasty at Thebes. MMJ 26:5-48. 
Bourriau, J. 1991. Patterns of change in burial customs during the Middle Kingdom. In Middle 

Kingdom Studies, S.Quirke, ed., 3-20. New Maiden. 
Franke, D. 1991. The career of Khnumhotep III of Beni Hasan and the so-called "decline of the 

nomarchs." In Middle Kingdom Studies, S.Quirke, ed., 51-67. New Maiden. 
Goedicke, H. 1991. Egyptian military actions in "Asia" in the Middle Kingdom. RdE 42: 89-94. 
Leprohon, R.J. 1993. Administrative titles in Nubia in the Middle Kingdom. JAOS 113 (3): 423-36. 
Lichtheim, M. 1988. Ancient Egyptian Autobiographies Chiefly of the Middle Kingdom. A Study 

and an Anthology (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 84). Freiburg. 
Parkinson, R.B. 1991. Voices from Ancient Egypt: An Anthology of Middle Kingdom Writings. 

Norman, OK. 
Quirke, S. 1990. The Administration of Egypt in the Late Middle Kingdom: The Hieratic 

Documents. New Maiden. 
. 1991. Royal power in the 13th Dynasty. In Middle Kingdom Studies, S.Quirke, ed., 123-39. 

New Maiden. 
Weinstein, J.W. 1975. Egyptian relations with Palestine in the Middle Kingdom. BASOR 217:1-16. 


Second Intermediate Period, overview 

The "Second Intermediate Period" is the term conventionally used for the period of 
divided rule in Egypt after the Middle Kingdom. It begins after the end of the 12th 
Dynasty and ends with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt and the inception of the 
New Kingdom (18th Dynasty). 

Dynastic stability ended with the beginning of the 13th Dynasty. According to 
Manetho, 60 kings reigned for 153 years, with an average of one king every three years, a 
definite sign of political instability. There were few or no established criteria for dynastic 
succession. This seems to have been a period with usurpers on one side, and king-makers 
and a strong administration on the other. Some of the kings were most probably of 
Asiatic origin, such as Chendjer, "the Boar." It can be assumed that most of the kings 
previously held high positions in the court or army. For example, one king was named 
Mermesha, "the General." Some stability can be observed, however, in the middle of the 
13th Dynasty with the reigns of Sobekhotep III, Neferhotep I, Sihathor I and Sobekhotep 
IV, and for a short time there was some form of dynastic succession. 

From the beginning of the 13th Dynasty, mining expeditions to the Sinai and 
inscriptions in the region of the Second Cataract ended abruptly. The royal mortuary cults 
of the 12th Dynasty also ended soon afterwards. The 13th Dynasty was very active 
abroad, however, especially in southwest Asia. A scepter of King Hotepibre was found in 
a royal tomb at the site of Tell Mardikh (ancient Ebla), in northern Syria. Good relations 
were fostered with Byblos, whose rulers had probably already accepted the Egyptian title 

of "governor"('"0'' ') during the 12th Dynasty, as did another Asiatic ruler of Kumidi 
(in the Beqaa valley in Lebanon). Many Levantine peoples were employed in the 
Egyptian army or as servants in upper-class households. Some of these foreigners made 
careers in their positions, especially in the royal household, and consequently rose to 
positions of power, which explains the foreign names of some kings of this dynasty. 

With a lack of dynastic stability, political fragmentation had occurred in Egypt by 
circa 1700 BC and local kingdoms arose in the northeastern Delta. Of special importance 
was the kingdom ruled by King 'Aasehre Nehesy, with its capital at Avaris (Tell ed- 
Dab'a). With the 13th Dynasty no longer in control of the whole country, its rulers 
withdrew to Upper Egypt. Nehesy ruled primarily over peoples of Syro-Palestinian 
origin, who had settled in large numbers in the northeastern Delta, in special settlements 
granted by the kings of the late 12th Dynasty. They were probably employed as soldiers, 
sailors, shipbuilders and workmen. These foreigners introduced the cult of the northern 
Syrian storm god Ba'al Zephon/ Haddad in the region of Avaris, the most important 
settlement. Nehesy's dynasty in Avaris was probably soon replaced by a local dynasty of 
Syro-Palestinians, who spoke a West Semitic dialect. Thus, the nucleus of the later 
Hyksos kingdom was formed. The unstable political situation in the country invited these 
non-Egyptian rulers to expand their control to Middle Egypt and soon afterwards to 
Upper Egypt. Facilitating this expansion were an army, ships and foreign connections. 
An inscription on a stela describes marauding hordes of such soldiers destabilizing the 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 58 

region of Thebes, where one of the last kings of the 13th Dynasty, Neferhotep III, had 

By this time the Egyptian garrisons in Lower Nubia were partly abandoned, but some 
Egyptians remained there and went into the service of the Upper Nubian kingdom of 
Kush (Kerma culture), which occupied Lower Nubia circa 1650 BC. Egypt was now 
under the (loose) control of the so-called Hyksos, i.e. "Rulers of the Foreign Countries," 
an Egyptian term originally used for foreign chiefs and bedouin leaders. This title was 
officially adopted by the kings of the 15th Dynasty, who emerged from the dynasty in 
Avaris and probably governed from there. They were crowned in the old capital of 
Memphis (at least, this is reported by Flavius Josephus about the first king, Salitis). Kings 
of the contemporaneous 16th Dynasty probably ruled as a sub-dynasty in southern 
Palestine at Sharuhen (Tell el-'Ajjul). From there the majority of exports, such as olive 
oil and wine, were shipped to Egypt. 

The Hyksos were well connected in the eastern Mediterranean through trade and 
diplomacy. Besides southern and coastal Palestine and Cyprus, they also had links to the 
Minoan thalassocracy on Crete, as evidenced by an alabaster lid inscribed with the name 
of the powerful Hyksos Khayan, found in the palace of Knossos. Hyksos rule was 
centralized in a "homeland" in the northeastern Delta, from where new settlements of the 
Syro-Palestinian Middle Bronze Age culture spread. These kings and their followers had 
mainly West Semitic names. They firmly controlled northern Egypt, where devoted 
vassals were installed. It does not seem coincidental that the 17th Dynasty in Thebes 
began at about the same time as the Hyksos dynasty, and perhaps the first king of the 
Theban dynasty, Nubkheperre Intef VI, had been installed by the Hyksos. The choice of 
the royal name "Intef" shows that this new dynasty attempted to re-establish a tradition 
that was rooted in the past glory of the 11th Dynasty, when Thebes became the capital of 
Egypt and its god Amen was the dominant deity. Once again, at the end of the Second 
Intermediate Period, Amen became the symbol of Egypt's liberation from the foreigners. 

King Seqenenre Ta'o of the 17th Dynasty was probably the first to attempt an uprising 
against his overlord, Aawoserre Apophis, in Avaris. Some diplomatic problems are 
mentioned in a popular tale found in the Papyms Sallier I, from the New Kingdom. More 
conclusive evidence for events is provided by the mummy of King Seqenenre, with 
deadly injuries on the skull caused specifically by a Syro-Palestinian battleax. After a 
crown prince named Ahmose (Louvre statue no. E 15682) died prematurely, Seqenenre 
was succeeded by Kamose, either a son or a half-brother. In his third regnal year, Kamose 
successfully led a military campaign north to the region of Avaris and set up two victory 
stelae in the Temple of Amen at Karnak. He was unable to seize Avaris, however, and 
died soon afterwards. It is therefore tempting to assume that this king died from the 
injuries he received in a battle near Avaris. 

Kamose's successor was a son of Seqenenre also called Ahmose. He was only a child 
when he came to the throne. In such a situation the king's mother, Ahhotep, was an 
important figure for the stability of the dynasty and it was many years before Avaris 
could be attacked again. This probably happened between the fifteenth and eighteenth 
years of Ahmose 's reign. In order to create stability in the dynastic succession, he 
married his sister Ahmose Nefertary, which had become customary in the late 17th 
Dynasty. A new official position for the queen, "the God's Wife of Amen," was 
introduced. According to Egyptian religious fiction, the queen conceived the heir 

Second intermediate period 59 

apparent with the god Amen, who took the role of her husband. Thus, the divine origin of 
the dynasty was created and the institution of sister-marriage guaranteed the exclusivity 
of the royal family. 

Ahmose succeeded in cutting off Avaris from Sile, as described on the reverse of the 
Rhind Papyrus (British Museum EA 10.058), and took Avaris. There he built his 
residence within the Hyksos citadel after the model of Deir el-Ballas. Close connections 
with the Minoan thalassocracy, most probably with the court of Knossos, are 
demonstrated by the abundant Minoan-style wall paintings from two or three of the major 
buildings in the royal residence at Avaris. Avaris served as Ahmose's headquarters 
during the subsequent campaigns in southern Palestine. He attacked the second major 
stronghold of the Hyksos at Sharuhen (Tell el-'Ajjul) near Gaza, which he took after a 
siege of three years. He devoted the following years to destroying the strongholds of the 
Hyksos and restoring the former Egyptian possessions in Nubia by attacking the kingdom 
of Kush (Kerma). It seems that Ahmose was not motivated to conquer major areas in 
southwest Asia or Nubia, but he was determined to rebuild Egypt to its former glory. He 
resumed the traditional trading relationship with Byblos and took over the trade network 
of the Hyksos. Goods from Syria, Palestine, Cyprus and the Aegean poured into Egypt 
and the increasing economic stability of the country after its reunification laid the 
foundations for the prosperity of the New Kingdom, which was truly founded by 
Ahmose. It was only later that his successors, Amenhotep I and Tuthmose I, started to 
conquer territories in Nubia and southwest Asia which had never been held before by 
Egypt. This was done, however, following the trauma of foreign rule in Egypt and the 
fear of repetition of such an event. Other major powers in the ancient Near East, such as 
Mitanni, also arose at this time (Late Bronze Age) and Egypt began to play its part as an 
emerging superpower. 

See also 

Aegean peoples; Canaanites; Cypriot peoples; Hyksos; Kerma; Manetho; New Kingdom, 
overview; Tell ed-Dab'a, Second Intermediate Period; Tell el-Yahudiya 

Further reading 

Bietak, M. 1996. Avon's, the Captial of the Hyksos: New Excavation Results. London. 

Hayes, W.C. 1973. Egypt: from the death of Ammenemes III to Seqenenre' II, In The Cambridge 

Ancient History 11 (l):42-76. Cambridge. 
James, T.G.H. 1973. Egypt: from the expulsion of the Hyksos to Amenophis I. In The Cambridge 

Ancient History 11 (1):289-312. Cambridge. 
Mazar, B. 1968. The Middle Bronze Age in Palestine. IEJ 18:65-97. 
Redford, D.B. 1992. Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times. Princeton, NJ. 
Van Seters, J. 1966. The Hyksos: A New Investigation. New Haven, CT. 


New Kingdom, overview 

"New Kingdom" is the term generally given to the five centuries of Egyptian history 
from circa 1550 to 1050 BC. The New Kingdom covers the 17th-20th Dynasties, during 
which the bounds of Egypt's empire and international influence reached their greatest 

Historical summary 

The New Kingdom was inaugurated (17th-18th Dynasties) by a family of Theban nobles, 
probably of Nubian descent, who led the war of liberation against the Asiatic Hyksos 
ruling in Middle and Lower Egypt. The reigns of Ahmose, Amenhotep I and Queen 
Hatshepsut represent a period of renewal and consolidation after the expulsion of the 
Hyksos; Lower Nubia was occupied and annexed and the frontier stood at Karoy, in the 
region of the fourth Nile cataract. In literature, art and architecture the classic period of 
the 12th Dynasty was used as a source of inspiration, sometimes to the point of item-by- 
item imitation. 

Following a contretemps of political and ideological nature between Queen 
Hatshepsut and her nephew Tuthmose III, the latter acceded to full power on his aunt's 
death and changed the course of history. Casting his action as a pre-emptive strike against 
the "Hyksos," Tuthmose III launched over seventeen campaigns in two decades against 
the coastlands of the Levant, which resulted in a repulse of the great empire of Mitanni 
(in what is now eastern Syria and northern Iraq), and an Egyptian frontier on the 
Euphrates. Although Amenhotep II, Tuthmose Ill's son, lost the northern reach of this 
empire, Mitanni was eventually forced to sue for peace and sign a treaty with Tuthmose 
IV. Thereafter, a series of diplomatic marriages cemented the alliance between the two 
empires. The creation of the Egyptian empire resulted in an influx of thousands of Asiatic 
prisoners of war, merchants and settlers, and an ingress of Asiatic and Aegean products 
and ideas which transformed Egyptian art and technology. 

The reign of Amenhotep III represents the flowering of Egyptian imperial culture. 
Fifty years of peace found Egypt the unrivalled superpower of the Near East, in receipt of 
vast amounts of taxes and tribute and the focus of world trade. Amenhotep III was the 
first king of the empire period who reflected Egypt's dominant position in the boom of 
gigantic architectural memorials and refined arts. As the "dazzling sun-disc," his chosen 
sobriquet, he personified to the world a rich and surfeited land. 

Amenhotep IV, or Akhenaten as he called himself, son and successor of Amenhotep 
III, effected a revolution in religion and the arts by espousing the sun disk as sole god and 
declaring all other gods to have "ceased" (their existence). Along with the new 
monotheism went a new canon of art characterized by an iconoclastic purging of all 
traces of polytheism. The better to realize his program, Akhenaten rejected the old royal 
residences of Memphis and Thebes, and built a new city, Akhetaten ("Horizon-of-the- 
sun-disc"), in Middle Egypt where he could focus the entire economy of Egypt on the 
cult of his sole god. The monotheistic program, the personal creation of Akhenaten, could 
not be maintained by his ephemeral successors, and within fifteen years of his death a 

New Kingdom 61 

reaction set in. The temples to the sun disk were dismantled, the old cults reinstated and 
Akhenaten declared anathema. 

Now discredited, the 18th Dynasty disappeared in the confusion attendant upon an 
outbreak of plague, and was succeeded by a succession of three unrelated military 
officers. The last of these, PaRamesses, or Ramesses I, installed his son Seti I as coregent 
and the 19th Dynasty thus came to power. Seti was bent on coming to grips with the 
Hittite empire in Anatolia, which had replaced Mitanni as the superpower of Asia and 
was threatening Egypt's frontier in central Syria. A series of indecisive engagements 
culminated in the disastrous ambush of Egyptian forces at Qadesh on the Orontes in the 
fifth year of Seti's successor, Ramesses II; thereafter most of Egypt's territory beyond the 
Sinai was temporarily lost. But Ramesses fought back doggedly and by his twenty-first 
year had forced the Hittites, now faced by a hostile Assyria, to sign a peace treaty. 
Versions of this celebrated pact are extant in the original Hittite, and also in Akkadian 
and Egyptian translations. 

The conclusion of hostilities ushered in a period of peace which saw a burst of 
international trade and commercial activity all around the Mediterranean. Ramesses II 
used the highly regimented military and civilian population of Egypt to set on foot a 
rebuilding program of vast proportions in which virtually all the temples of Egypt were 
either reconstructed or repaired. Archaeological and textual sources abound for this 
Ramesside age, and yield intimate glimpses of society at large, its businesses, 
occupations, entertainments and beliefs. Ramesses II and a few of his sons — his offspring 
officially numbered over 100 — lived on in later legend as the super-king Sesostris, the 
wise Khaemweset and the blind Pheron. A royal archetype had been established which 
inspired Egypt and invited imitation for over six centuries. 

Following the death of the great Ramesses II, the various branches of his family fell to 
squabbling over the succession, just at a time when a weakened administration had to 
face the pressure of ethnic migrations from Libya, Ionia and the Greek islands, seeking to 
settle in Egypt. The general ineptitude of the last scions of the house prompted a coup 
d'etat by one Sethnakht, whose origins are obscure. Thus was established the 20th 
Dynasty. Sethnakht's son Ramesses III was able to effect a restoration of the country's 
fortunes: in his fifth year he decisively defeated the Libyan tribe which had settled in 
Egypt, and in his eighth year a massive invasion of "Sea Peoples" from the Aegean was 
repulsed. Although the Asiatic principalities of the empire had been devastated by the 
incursions, Ramesses III by dint of effort extended his frontiers once again to central 

Ramesses III and his eight like-named successors, however, faced numerous problems 
which in the aggregate spelled doom for the prosperity of the country. The onset of low 
inundations adversely affected agricultural productivity and granaries stood empty. The 
violence of the Sea People's invasion had laid waste large parts of Asia Minor and Syria, 
and many of Egypt's former trading partners no longer existed. Areas producing silver 
and iron (both absent in Egypt) were shut off from Egyptian traders, and copper and gold- 
producing regions were showing signs of exhaustion. Inflation hit the marketplace, and 
strikes by laborers were prevalent. Grave robbing became widespread and proved 
impossible for the authorities to stop. Gradually the state showed signs of a bifurcation 
between Middle Egypt and the Delta, where the royal family now resided permanently, 
and the Thebaid which came increasingly to be treated as the "House of Amen," under 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 62 

the high priests of this deity. When the last of the Ramessides, Ramesses XI, finally 
passed away and power shifted to the new city of Tanis, the culture, political structure 
and economy identified as the "New Kingdom" was effectively defunct. 


The role of monarch is correctly regarded as the king-pin of the entire structure of 
government during the New Kingdom. The 18th Dynasty kings harked back to the 
glorious 12th Dynasty kings, whose heirs they claimed to be. Prominent in the mythology 
of kingship was the motif of the divine birth of Pharaoh, sired by Amen-Re, King of the 
Gods. The king became "Son of Amen," the very likeness of the deity on earth, in 
possession of the kingship as an inheritance from his father. The 18th Dynasty had come 
to power in war, and the early Tuthmosids were imbued with a military spirit. While they 
relied on a "citizen" army, they created the institution of the "nursery" where selected 
children of the future king's own age were brought up with him. From these companions, 
whose mothers achieved a degree of prominence in the 18th Dynasty, came the future 
officers and trusted henchmen of Pharaoh. The winning of the empire robbed the 
Tuthmosids of any military aura and the latter "image" of an 18th Dynasty pharaoh was 
that of a surfeited voluptuary. By contrast, the 19th Dynasty came from a family of 
professional army officers and the military was everywhere and at all times in receipt of 
favors and lofty status. 

The personnel of government and administration were dominated by members of a 
few patrician families who had achieved prominence in the reunification of the country 
during the late 17th/early 18th Dynasties. These were "the most elite and choicest of the 
whole land... [with] a respectable lineage reaching back over generations" (Amenhotep 
III). Crisis points in this social system occurred when members of this sort of "family 
compact" were replaced willy-nilly by parvenus, when a new crop arose on the coat tails 
of a new regime, or when a gifted individual outside the circle broke in to wrest a high 

In contrast to the parochial nature of Second Intermediate Period government, the New 
Kingdom shows a high degree of civilization. Branches of government tended to 
bifurcate between Upper and Lower Egypt, and to have their "head officers" in Memphis 
and Thebes, the chief royal residences. Here were located the judicial/executive 
"councils" (knbt) and the office of the vizier. The vizierate, a prime ministerial office, 
inherited directly from the Second Intermediate Period, was directly responsible to the 
king for the departments of agriculture, local administration, the judiciary, the 
workhouses, the state granaries (originally with the chief herald), the palace 
administration and the royal estates. In addition the vizier presided over the prestigous 
"Council of Thirty," a quasi-high court. He was not responsible for the treasury, the army 
or the provincial administration, all the heads of which reported directly to Pharaoh. By 
the time of Tuthmose III the heads of major departments received the title "king's- 
scribe," the highest of the "mandarin-ranks" attainable. The middle-ranking civil servants 
were all scribes, called generically srw, "magistrates," drawn from the best of the scribal 
class and assigned posts and functions all over Egypt. In contrast, the "support staffs" 

New Kingdom 63 

(smdt) at the lower end of the bureaucracy were recruited locally and functioned close to 

In the countryside, power gravitated to the capital from the townships or "nomes," 
now no longer administrative units. Towns were governed by "mayors" (non-hereditary) 
or by a scribe and council; in either case, complete control of the local bailiwicks was 
retained by the vizier. Towns continued to be centered upon the temples of the local 
municipal gods, but for the purposes of administration had become little more than 
collection centers for taxes and rents. They could, however, still levy harbor fees on 
shipping. Tuthmose III began the practice of making an annual progress throughout 
Egypt to inspect the state of the local governments, but not all his successors followed 


Society in the New Kingdom mirrored the hierarchy of the administration. At the apex sat 
the pharaoh; he, his queen(s) and harims owned large estates throughout Egypt providing 
produce and riches for a royal privy purse. The chief steward of the king was a very 
powerful individual, responsible directly to the crown, and usually recruited outside the 
hereditary nobility. Where the king chose to reside (usually in the Memphite region), 
there lived also the chief men of government and anyone of any consequence: their roots 
may have been diverse, but service to the crown necessitated their residence at court. The 
importance of those who had shared in the wars and the phenomenon of the royal nursery 
had created a new aristocracy which eclipsed and replaced the old provincial nobility. 
Now prominent and respectable and endowed with hereditary rights were the scribe, the 
soldier and the priest. The rural population consisted largely of tenants and sharecroppers, 
renting land from some of the large landowning institutions, or field hands tied 
permanently to the soil under a farm manager. 

With the creation of the empire came an influx of foreign peoples into Egypt. 
Prisoners of war constituted the largest single group. These were usually registered, 
branded and assigned to farms, workhouses or weaving shops. Others were recruited for 
work in quarries, or on construction sites or as domestics. In the late Ramesside period 
Canaanite butlers are found in the royal palace. Merchants and their ships frequented the 
harbors of Memphis and Thebes, and a quarter of the former city was set aside for their 
residence as a trading post. The commercial and demographic impact of Asia on Egypt 
resulted in the ingress of numerous foreign words into the Egyptian language. 


Numerous papyri from the New Kingdom provide evidence on taxation and commerce. 
The yield of the grain harvest (emmer wheat and barley) was estimated yearly by 
measurement of the fields under cultivation and the nilometer's prediction of the height 
of the inundation. At harvest time, state and private vessels made the circuit of landing 
stages to collect a proportion of the yield as grain tax and rent. Other taxes included a 
quota placed on towns and offices to cover budgetary needs of institutions (usually 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 64 

temples), dues levied on support staffs, a tax imposed on (manufactured) products of 
labor, and "benevolences" expected from high officers of state. These taxes were 
imposed on Egypt and its empire alike, but that did not prevent a lively trade between 
Egypt and the Mediterranean littoral. From Asia, Egypt received oil, wine, cedarwood, 
boxwood, tin, metalwork, chariotry and weapons; from Cyprus, copper; from Anatolia, 
silver and (some) iron; and from the Aegean, unguents and spices. In return, Egypt 
shipped wheat and barley, luxury goods and tropical products from its African sphere of 

The climatic changes which brought on a series of diminished inundations in the 
twelfth century BC, and the foreign invasions of Sea Peoples and Libyans, largely 
curtailed this trade. The resultant privations and social and political dislocation were 
catastrophic for the empire. The Ramessides discredited themselves, and political power 
gravitated to a new regime in a newly created city, Tanis. Thebes and its god Amen lost 
their royal and imperial status, and Egyptian society lost its elan vital. In short, the New 
Kingdom was dead. 

See also 

administrative bureaucracy; Aegean peoples; army; Hyksos; kingship; Libyans; nome 
structure; religion, state; Sea Peoples; taxation and conscription; textual sources, New 
Kingdom; trade, foreign 

Further reading 

Brovarski, E., S.K.Doll and R.E. Freed. 1982. Egypt's Golden Age: The Art of Living in the New 

Kingdom, 1558-1085 B.C. Boston. 
James, T.G.H. 1984. Pharaoh's People: Scenes from Life in Imperial Egypt. London. 
Kemp, B.J. 1989. Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization. London. 
Kitchen, K.A. 1982. Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life and Times of Ramesses II. Warminster. 
Redford, D.B. 1967. History and Chronology of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt: Seven Studies. 



Third Intermediate Period, overview 

The "Third Intermediate Period" is nothing more than a generally accepted term used to 
encompass the 21st-25th Dynasties, which is composed of three distinct cultural periods. 
Egypt of the 21st Dynasty was, in theory, a unified state whose ruling family was linked 
through marriage to that of the 20th Dynasty, and in many ways served as an adjunct to 
the late New Kingdom. From the thirteenth century BC on, large numbers of Libyan 
tribes had been slowly, but not always peacefully, infiltrating the western Delta, perhaps 
driven on by famine, drought or simply the desire for a better life. Whatever the origins 
of these refugees, they were able to adapt to and flourish within native Egyptian culture. 
So successful were they that by the middle of the tenth century BC, Libyan chieftains 
were able to ascend to the throne as the 22nd Dynasty, and were seemingly accepted as 
legitimate pharaohs. 

The period of the 22nd-23rd Dynasties, with their chief towns at Tanis and Bubastis, 
is therefore best described as the "Libyan period." At first these pharaohs were able to 
impose upon Egypt, by the manipulation of appointments of chief officials throughout the 
realm, a unity unseen during the 21st Dynasty. As this period wore on, however, the 
ruling house gradually lost control of parts of the country, so that the last king of 
Manetho's 23rd Dynasty, Osorkon IV, ruled over little more than the family seat in the 
eastern Delta. Perhaps first to go was Thebes, which began recognizing its own pharaohs 
(the "Theban" 23rd Dynasty) during the reign of Osorkon II, and ceased referring to the 
Tanite kings during the reign of Sheshonk III. At a later point, certainly before Piye's 
invasion, Sais (24th Dynasty) and Leontopolis ("23rd Dynasty Leontopolis") had also 
begun recognizing their own monarchs. This plurality was brought to a close by a 
Kushite (Nubian) invasion, whose leaders were to rule Egypt as the 25th Dynasty. Thus it 
is clear that Egyptian, Libyan and Kushite cultures all contributed to the art and 
archaeology of the period. 

The Third Intermediate Period is conventionally (and mistakenly) seen as a "Dark 
Age," since it has left few architectural remains. This view is compounded by the Delta 
location of the Dynastic capitals, Tanis, Bubastis and Sais, which have either been 
relatively little explored or survived poorly. The scattered remains of the temple ruins at 
Tanis and the Festival Hall of Osorkon II at Bubastis testify to the magnificence of the 
civic buildings which once stood in Delta cities. 

Religious buildings 

Religious buildings of the 21st Dynasty, in as far as they are preserved, appear to 
continue the traditions of the New Kingdom. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the 
Temple of Khonsu at Karnak, which, although principally built during the 20th Dynasty, 
was added to and finally decorated by Herihor and Pinedjem. Elsewhere scant remains of 
this date can be found in the Temple of Amen at Tanis; a temple of Isis at Giza; in sacred 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 66 

(?) structures at Tell ed-Dab'a, known from a block of Siamen; and at Memphis, where 
only remains of the gateway, also dating to the reign of Siamen, are preserved. 

During the Libyan period, further work was carried out on the Amen temple complex 
at Tanis, particularly during the reigns of Osorkon II and Sheshonk III. The former was 
also responsible for much remodeling of the temple structures at Bubastis. Elsewhere the 
best preserved temple is probably the ruinous example at el-Hiba, begun by Sheshonk I 
and finished by Osorkon I. Blocks which came from smaller shrines have been found at 
Tell Balala, Kom-el-Hisn, Tell el-Yahudiya and el-Bindaraia. The remains of at least 
three 22nd Dynasty shrines, one of Sheshonk II and two of Osorkon II, have been found 
at Karnak. At Karnak too stands the best preserved piece of Libyan architecture, the so- 
called "Bubastite Portal." More small shrines, of which the most famous is that of the god 
Osiris Heka-djet (later expanded and remodeled during the 25th Dynasty), were also 
erected at Karnak by the rulers of the Theban 23rd Dynasty. 

Following the Kushite conquest (25th Dynasty), much religious building was 
undertaken, particularly during the reign of Taharka, whose surviving temples, 
particularly those at Gebel Barkal, Kawa and Qasr el-Ghueida in Kharga Oasis, are 
perfect copies of traditional New Kingdom religious temples but on a smaller scale. Also 
at Karnak, the remains of numerous small shrines attest to a continuation of a style of 
building made popular by the Theban 23rd Dynasty. Elsewhere, little remains, though 
blocks from a small temple and shrine at Memphis dating to the reigns of Shabako and 
Taharka have come to light. At Karnak, Taharka was also responsible for the erection of 
a large colonnaded portico in front of the Second Pylon, and for the construction of a 
remarkable building with subterranean cult chambers beside the Sacred Lake. 

Secular buildings 

The remains of secular buildings are even less well preserved, which is not surprising 
since most would have been built of mudbrick. The town sites of Medinet Habu and 
Elephantine have revealed remains of domestic houses extending throughout the entire 
Third Intermediate Period. With the exception of that of the 21st Dynasty scribe, 
Butehamen, which clearly had a central colonnaded court, the published buildings have 
small ground plans, but the remains of staircases indicate that they normally had at least 
two floors. A growing sense of insecurity during these times led to the building of 
fortification walls around the towns at Medinet Habu and el-Hiba. Since another fort was 
erected at the undiscovered site of Per-Sekhemperre, it is likely that many of the towns of 
this period were so fortified. 

Tombs and burial customs 

It is through its burials, however, that the archaeology of ancient Egypt is best known, 
and the Third Intermediate Period stands out as a period of marked change. The isolated 
royal burial is given up in favor of burial within the sacred precincts of a temple area, 
most obviously at Tanis and Sais, but this is also noticeable at Thebes, where burials 
were placed in tombs cut through the New Kingdom mortuary temples. Perhaps more 

Third intermediate period 67 

striking, however, is that the idea of spending one's lifetime preparing a "goodly burial" 
with splendid tomb and furnishings practically vanishes. Apart from the royal burials at 
Tanis, Memphis, Heracleopolis and Medinet Habu, the concept of a specially constructed 
tomb is all but abandoned, though some private tomb chapels of this period are known at 
Tanis, Abydos, and in the Ramesseum area at Thebes, while an extant pyramidion 
indicates tomb chapels at Bubastis. 

Since Thebes provides most of the evidence for burial customs during the Third 
Intermediate Period, the remainder of this section is based entirely on Theban beliefs. 
During the 21st Dynasty a practice developed of private interments within usurped earlier 
tombs, and this practice even extended as high as royal children, as can be seen with the 
burial of Princess Nauny, interred within the tomb of the 18th Dynasty Queen 
Meryetamen. At first only single burials were so made, but there quickly developed a 
system of family vaults, of which the most famous are those of Pinedjem II and his 
immediate family (which was later used to house the "royal cache" of mummies) and, 
later, the Montu priest burials, both at Deir el-Bahri. Although there are noticeable 
changes in style throughout the period, the well-provided Theban went to the grave with 
little more than coffins, heart scarabs and a complement of 401 shawabtis enclosed 
within a pair of chests. These items were supplemented at different periods by, in the 21st 
Dynasty, a Book of Amduat rolled between the legs, an Osiris figure with funerary 
papyrus (most often, a Book of the Dead) and wax amulets of the Sons of Horus within 
the body protecting the viscera. During the Libyan period, burial goods included 
freestanding wooden figures of the Four Sons of Horus, small mummies made of wheat, 
and a polychrome cartonnage case, which was enclosed within coffins of a much more 
drab appearance than the ornately decorated ones of the 21st Dynasty. Finally, during the 
25th Dynasty, a bead net without face and a figure of the god Ptah-Sokar-Osiris 
complemented the burial. Throughout the entire Third Intermediate Period the richer 
burials were also supplemented with wooden stelae and canopic jars, which during the 
Libyan period were merely symbolic dummies. Specialists can recognize six distinctive 
funerary phases within the Third Intermediate Period, depending on the styles and types 
of the grave goods, with distinct changes noticeable at about 1000 BC, at circa 950/ 930 
BC, circa 850/825 BC, circa 750 BC and finally at around 675/650 BC. 


Since very little standing architecture remains, it follows that correspondingly little relief 
sculpture survives. The best of it, however, is to be found at Tanis, particularly in the 
tombs of Psusennes I and Osorkon II and carved on the temple blocks of Sheshonk III. 
By contrast, a large number of sculptures in the round can be attributed to the Third 
Intermediate Period. At Tanis, such objects are fragmentary, generally of small size, and 
made exclusively out of hard stone. The best known sculptures are probably the stone 
statuettes found in the Karnak Cachette, a cache of statues intentionally buried at Karnak 
in the Late period. These tend to show high officials of the realm, and almost all are in 
cuboid form showing the deceased squatting, or sitting on the floor, in a wrap-around 
cloak. The seated statue, however, practically disappears at this time. Toward the end of 
the Libyan period, and certainly during Kushite times, these sculptures show a marked 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 68 

veering away from idealized portraits of eternal youth to a style of portraiture intended to 
convey an aspect of more maturity, and a harking back to more archaic prototypes. This 
archaizing tendency began to manifest itself during the eighth century BC before the 
Kushite conquest, and is most noticeable in royal monuments, particularly in the terse 
style of the titulary, which harks back to Old and Middle Kingdom models, and in the use 
of the Blue Crown. However, if there is one type of object for which the Third 
Intermediate Period should be justly famed, it is for its metal sculptures. The most 
opulent of these were made of gold, though the usual medium was bronze. These statues 
exhibit a slenderness of form achieved by an accentuated modeling of the upper torso, a 
distinctly slim waist and slender thighs. Many of the bronzes, of which the most famous 
are the Louvre Karomama (reign of Osorkon II) and the statue of Takushet (reign of 
Piye) in Athens, have their surfaces enriched with gold, silver and electrum inlays. 

Minor arts 

Within the fields of minor arts, particular mention should be made of the royal jewelry 
found at Tanis, Memphis and Tell Muqdam, and of the richly painted coffins from 
Thebes. During the 21st Dynasty, the art of coffin painting reached a peak that has never 
been equaled. Coffin exteriors of the 21st Dynasty tend to be decorated in rich colors on a 
yellow ground, while the interiors are on a wine red ground. A reorganization in funerary 
iconography at the end of the 20th Dynasty led to the adoption of a new repertoire of 
scenes drawn mainly from Osirian and solar mythology. Also popular were scenes of the 
Four Sons of Horus, Osiris seated on a double throne, a Hathor cow emerging from the 
necropolis, and scenes taken from the Litany of Re. On the coffin interior, representations 
of Nut or a djed pillar, a hieroglyph symbolizing "stability," are the usual motifs 
encountered. By the reign of Osorkon I, however, these brightly painted coffins had gone 
out of fashion and were replaced by new types which were different in shape, 
construction and style of decoration. These tended to be drab, but the rise of the richly 
decorated cartonnage case continued the tradition of the earlier coffin painters. These 
cartonnages are painted most often with numerous winged deities and djed symbols on a 
white ground. These went out of fashion during the early 25th Dynasty, and coffin 
painting was never again of such a high standard. 

See also 

Elephantine; funerary texts; Gebel Barkal; Kom el-Hisn; Kushites; Libyans; Manetho; 
Medinet Habu; Memphis; shawabtis, servant figures and models; Tanis (San el-Hagar); 
Tell Basta; Tell el-Muqdam; Tell el-Yahudiya 

Further reading 

Aldred, C.A. 1980. Egyptian Art, chapters 13-15. London. 

Fazzini, R.A. 1988. Egypt: Dynasty XXII-XXV (Iconography of Religions XVI.10). Leiden. 

Third intermediate period 69 

Leahy, A. 1985. The Libyan period in Egypt: an essay in interpretation. Libyan Studies 16: 51-65. 
Kitchen, K.A. 1996. The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100-650 BC), 3rd edn. Warminster. 
Ruszczyc, B. 1973. The Egyptian sacred architecture of the Late Period: a study against the 

background of the epoch. Archaeologia (Wroclaw) 24:12-49. 
Wilkinson, A. 1971. Ancient Egyptian Jewellery, chapters 8-10. London. 


Late and Ptolemaic periods, overview 

The Saites took control over the western Delta with the support of the Assyrians, who had 
driven the Kushite rulers (25th Dynasty) from Egypt by 665 BC. Gradually, Psamtik I of 
Sais extended his control and by the eighth year of his reign he controlled the entire 
Delta. He supported men loyal to him for controlling positions in important Nile Valley 
towns, and he opened negotiations with the Thebans. By the ninth year he had persuaded 
the high priestesses of the temple of Karnak (the "God's Wife" and the "Divine Votaress 
of Amen"), who were the last remnants of Kushite control in Thebes, to adopt his 
daughter Nitocris as their successor. He made no attempt to interfere otherwise with the 
administrative structure in Thebes, but, with this move, he had become undisputed king 
of a reunited Upper and Lower Egypt and the founder of the 26th Dynasty. Slowly the 
powerful old Theban and Middle Egyptian families were replaced by new officials, some 
but not all of whom came from the Delta. By the time Psamtik I was firmly established as 
King of Upper and Lower Egypt, his initial dependence on Assyria was abandoned. He 
made a few gestures in western Asia which might have been construed as offensive by 
the Assyrians, but they were too busy elsewhere to be able to react. By the end of his long 
reign, Psamtik and Egypt were firm allies of the Assyrians in their struggle with the 
Babylonians. Trade contacts continued between Egypt and the Levant and there seems to 
have been some sort of "agreement" between Egypt and Judah in which the Egyptians 
encouraged (and sometimes provided ineffective assistance to) the leaders of Judah in 
their opposition to the Babylonians. Many Jews fleeing from the Babylonians escaped to 


Since the Egyptians were for the most part unable to exercise any military control in 
Syro-Palestine, they turned their attention to control of the seas. By participating in the 
booming international trade across the Mediterranean, Egypt, with its agricultural wealth, 
was assured access to both "staples" and luxury goods from abroad. By developing a 
strong navy, using new ships designed specifically for Mediterranean service, they could 
control movements of men and supplies in times of war. Numerous foreigners now lived 
in Egypt, many of whom were drawn by commercial potential as trade opened up 
throughout the Mediterranean. There were military garrisons staffed mainly by non- 
Egyptians, not only on Egypt's frontiers but also within the country; perhaps these were 
intended to help establish and maintain control over areas which had only recently been 
politically independent. The mercenaries were only a part of the growing number of 
people, mostly but not entirely Greek-speaking, who were moving into the Delta, the 
center of Egyptian society throughout the Late period. Memphis, at the apex of the Delta, 
was the administrative capital of the country, a flourishing, sophisticated, "multicultural" 
city. The development of strong economic and political/diplomatic ties between Egypt 
and the cities of the Greek mainland and Asia Minor, as a result of immigration, 
increased trade and development of the Egyptian navy, and had important consequences 

Late and Ptolemaic periods 7 1 

During the long and prosperous reign of Amasis, the last major Saite king, the new 
and dynamic culture of Saite Egypt crystallized. While Egypt remained largely a 
redistributive economy (with the palace, the temples and even high officials serving as 
the points of collection, storage and distribution), private enterprise was supported and 
commercial practices were tightened. Administrative corruption (in the temples and 
elsewhere) was attacked, and excessively wealthy (and powerful) individuals who might 
threaten the stability of the dynasty were "encouraged" to donate their wealth to the 
temples. Both public and private building flourished. The 26th Dynasty is a period which 
clearly exemplifies change within continuity. The Saites took what they felt to be the best 
of their ancient cultural tradition, modernized it, incorporated important innovations, and 
produced a culture which not merely "survived" but flourished in a very different, new 

One of the most important innovations which took place during the Late period was 
the development of new scripts. Demotic developed in Lower Egypt and is first attested 
during the reign of Psamtik I. Its use spread south with the Saites and by the reign of 
Amasis had led to a huge increase in numbers and types of documents, official and 
private, administrative, economic, religious and legal. The introduction of demotic does 
not merely indicate a vast increase in the number of documents which the Egyptians 
wrote. It also coincides with a period of immense creativity in Egyptian literature. On the 
legal side, the switch to demotic reflects significant changes in the underlying system. 
Where the law previously emphasized a mechanical process of reciprocity (for example, 
"I have given you X in exchange for Y"), now volition and intention became important. 
Changes in the form of so-called "marriage contracts" (actually economic documents 
whereby a man entails his property for his children) also appear during the reign of 
Amasis. In some cases, the changes seem to reflect modifications in the legal or social 
system itself. However, it is impossible to tell whether these changes began in Saite times 
or whether a conservative legal-documentary system was only slowly coming to reflect a 
social system which had changed much earlier. Certainly the high legal status of women, 
which is so striking in contrast to most other ancient societies, is well attested early in 
Egyptian history. 

Egypt became part of the Persian empire in 525 BC, when the Persian king Cambyses 
captured the capital at Memphis. He was vilified by the classical authors, and the Jewish 
mercenary community at Elephantine preserved a tradition of the "destruction of all the 
temples of the Egyptian gods" by Cambyses. But the contemporary records refute 
Herodotus's specific claim that Cambyses killed the sacred Apis bull and Cambyses's 
bad repute in later times may have stemmed from the fact that he cut back drastically on 
the revenue of the temples and antagonized the priesthood. Darius I had been with 
Cambyses in Egypt and by about 517 BC, when he had control of the empire, he returned 
to Egypt, where he supervised the digging of a "Suez" canal (begun under the Saite king 
Neko), connecting Persia by sea with the Egyptian Delta and thus the Mediterranean. He 
took some pains to behave and have himself portrayed in Egypt as a legitimate and 
beneficent ruler. Despite Darius's generally sympathetic treatment of captured lands, the 
end of his reign was marked by further rebellion in the empire and Egypt itself revolted in 
486 BC. When Xerxes succeeded Darius in 485 BC, he quickly put down the Egyptian 
rebellion. Neither he nor any of his successors ever visited Egypt and his treatment of 
Egypt and the Egyptians was extremely harsh. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 72 

Throughout the period of the Persian empire (27th-31st Dynasties) the Persians 
regarded Egypt as merely one province in its empire, albeit a rich one. Egypt was 
governed as a satrapy, with the satrap and other senior officials being Persians appointed 
by the king. The Saite bureaucratic organization of the country was largely retained, with 
Persians put in most high positions (both in Memphis and in the provinces). Aramaic was 
the official government language of the Persians. 

The records of an Aramaic-speaking colony of Jewish mercenaries stationed on the 
island of Elephantine, at the First Cataract, provide information about the colony, its 
relations with its Egyptian neighbors and officials of the Persian government. In some 
ways the Jewish community maintained its separate identity, keeping their Hebrew 
names, their own religion and marriage laws, but in other ways the community very much 
resembled its Egyptian neighbors. Legal scholars have discussed why the Egyptian and 
Jewish systems of land tenure, including land lease, are so similar. 

Some time after 450 BC, during a period of peace and prosperity, Herodotus visited 
Egypt and wrote his vivid account of Egyptian history and culture. Herodotus, as well as 
his Egyptian informants, had anti-Persian sentiments. He went to Egypt with the 
traditional Greek reverence for Egyptian culture and history and he looked at Egypt in 
terms of general themes (for example, Egypt as the opposite of Greece and the rest of the 
world). What he recorded was the result of what he looked for and asked about; the 
deficiencies frequently reflect the attitudes he took with him. 

The beginning of the reign of Artaxerxes (464-423 BC) was marked in Egypt by the 
first of a long series of rebellions by West Delta chieftains, who allied themselves with 
anyone who was antagonistic to the Persians. Finally, about 404 BC, at the death of 
Darius II, the Persians were driven out. During the next sixty years (404-343 BC), three 
different "dynasties," or ruling families, from different cities in the Delta successively 
wrested power from one another. Major temple construction in the Delta and in Upper 
Egypt during the longer reigns, especially those of the 30th Dynasty, reflected the relative 
wealth and security of the country. The number and quality of royal and private 
monuments, including statuary, also attest to the cultural and economic strength of Egypt 
under its last native dynasts. Indicative of the role of Egypt in the international commerce 
of the period is the Delta city of Naukratis, whose Greek residents traded extensively 
throughout the eastern Mediterranean. 

Since the Persian king throughout this period thought of Egypt as just one more 
rebellious province, and regularly attempted to reconquer it, Egyptian foreign policy 
consisted of support (sometimes covert or "moral," sometimes formal military aid) for 
anyone who was opposing the Persian king. This led to a shifting set of alliances between 
Egypt and the Greek cities, especially Athens and Sparta, and Cyprus, and also led to the 
stronger Egyptian kings intervening in Syro-Palestine to support those local dynasts who 
were rebelling against the Persians or could be persuaded to do so. But in reality Egypt 
was the "Broken Reed" of the Bible, whose support of anti-Persian factions proved 
unsuccessful in the long run. Egyptian military commanders were frequently Greek and 
the outcome of several battles was modified by recall (often instigated by the Persians) of 
some of these leaders to their home cities. 

Artaxerxes III Ochus recaptured Egypt in 343 BC, but rebellion continued until its 
conquest by Alexander in 332 BC. Legend has it that the Egyptians welcomed Alexander 
as a liberator from the Persians. Alexander had himself crowned king in the appropriate 

Late and Ptolemaic periods 73 

pharaonic manner in Memphis. He went to Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert to consult 
its oracle, a favorite one in the Greek world, and he was declared the son of Amen/Zeus. 
He founded Alexandria and established competitive games, drama and a musical festival 
in the Greek manner. Very soon after he left Egypt in the hands of administrators, who 
took advantage of his absence to aggrandize themselves. It was not until Ptolemy, one of 
Alexander's generals, claimed Egypt as his "prize" after the death of Alexander that 
Egypt again had a stable, well-run administration, centered in Egypt and designed to 
promote the wealth and welfare of the country. 

Aside from replacing an Egyptian or Persian ruling elite with a Greek/Macedonian 
one, the major contribution of the early Ptolemies was a quality and unity of leadership 
over an extended period. It was in their interest to build up Egypt's wealth, and this they 
did for several generations. The Ptolemies, like the short-lived Egyptian dynasts but 
unlike the Persians, centered themselves in Egypt, with their capital at Alexandria, 
although Memphis retained its economic, legal and religious importance. Agriculture 
remained the foundation of the economy and although some land was worked directly for 
the crown, most land was worked by private individuals who owned or rented it. There 
was some agricultural reform, introduction of some new crops, and some new technology 
and expansion of cultivation, especially in the Fayum, where extensive efforts took place 
to reclaim potential agricultural land around the lake. This expansion was carried out 
partly to provide land for soldiers and high government officials and involved creation of 
several Greek cities and a Greek cultural overlay in the Fayum. 

Alexandria became the capital of Hellenistic Egypt, where the Ptolemies and their 
courtiers resided. But Alexandria catered to a larger world of the eastern Mediterranean, 
and Memphis retained its economic and cultural importance for Egypt (and grew in 
importance to the Ptolemies as they came to focus more and more on the core Nile 
Valley). Alexandria was consciously Greek, rejecting Egyptian culture (and Egyptian 
natives to the extent that it could). Here was the famous Library of Alexandria and many 
of the most famous intellects of the Hellenistic (and Roman and Byzantine) world came 
to study or work and teach in Alexandria. In the early Ptolemaic period, royal patronage 
of the arts and sciences (including literature) attracted poets, scientists and scholars from 
all over the Greek world to the Library and Museum. Royal patronage continued through 
the middle Ptolemaic period and a succession of librarians introduced and organized a 
program of collecting and interpreting the Greek classical authors. Great advances were 
made in fields such as geography, mathematics, medicine and physics. By the late 
Ptolemaic period, Alexandria had become the center for the study of philosophy. At the 
same time there was growth in the Jewish community in Alexandria and in research in 
the fields of Jewish and Biblical studies. 

However, outside the Fayum and Alexandria life remained much as it had been for 
centuries, or millennia. Even though the Ptolemaic period was more "monetized" than 
earlier, and some taxes, license fees and so on had to be paid in silver, Egypt was still 
heavily a redistributive economy and one of the functions of the palace was to serve as 
the collection and storage site for domestic and international produce, and as the site from 
which such goods then circulated through the general economy. Temples and major 
agricultural estates served as secondary redistribution centers within the system 
dominated by the palace. Such a system left plenty of room for local markets and local 
exchange of goods between individuals and it should be noted that such a system was 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 74 

characteristic not only of Late period Egypt, but also of pharaonic Egypt as early as the 
Old Kingdom. The extensive bureaucracy, ranging from senior central administrators 
dealing with economic and legal affairs of the entire country to local scribes responsible 
for collecting and recording taxes, is anticipated already in the New Kingdom. Even the 
cleruchic system of giving soldiers a small plot of land in return for their military service 
was a well-established (and relatively cheap) method of tying the loyalties of Egypt's 
"foreign" soldiers to Egypt, perhaps seen most clearly during the Libyan dynasties 
(22nd-24th Dynasties). 

The Ptolemies developed a growing attachment to, or use of, Egyptian religion, with 
the development of the royal cult and the cult of Serapis, and royal patronage of 
traditional Egyptian cults. Myth and ritual remained intact and the temples and priesthood 
remained major landowners and a major economic force, as they had been throughout 
Egyptian civilization. Extensive formal royal sponsorship of temple building and 
rebuilding continued through the Ptolemaic and into the Roman period. Such actions won 
the Ptolemies the support of the Egyptian priesthood (and the priests, in turn, had great 
influence over the rest of society). Priests, both those "employed" by temples and those 
who provided ongoing mortuary services for wealthy Egyptian families, were among the 
wealthier individuals in Ptolemaic Egypt. They owned some land but gained most of their 
wealth "in kind" through the age-old practice of reversion of offerings: goods given to the 
gods, or the deceased, were passed on to the priests, who could consume them or trade 
them for other goods. 

Ptolemy I originally ruled as satrap, then as king. He was succeeded by his son and 
daughter (the beginning of the royal brother-sister marriages called "Egyptian," but not 
reflecting Egyptian customs), where the woman was the stronger force. Since Ptolemy 
had been in Egypt with Alexander, it is generally assumed that he recognized the 
potential wealth of the country as well as the relative ease of governing it without undue 
outside interference. However, he also maintained a claim over southern Syria (Coele- 
Syria) and Cyprus, presumably because of their natural resources, which complemented 
those of Egypt, and because of Ptolemy's desire to control the Mediterranean and its 
trade and trade routes. Until 200 BC, control of these regions was contested by the 
Ptolemies and the Seleucids (in Syria), with the Ptolemies more frequently in the 
ascendancy. The six so-called "Syrian Wars," fought for control of this region, are the 
background for one of the best-known Egyptian texts, the Rosetta Stone, instrumental in 
the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The final chapter in the "Syrian Wars" took 
place in 168 BC when the Seleucid king Antiochus had himself crowned king of Egypt in 
Memphis. Rome, which had a vested interest in making sure that none of the kings of the 
eastern Mediterranean gained too much power, stepped in and ordered Antiochus out of 
Egypt. From this point on, Ptolemaic political history is a story of inept rule, dynastic 
strife and the growing involvement of Rome, all underlain by growing economic distress 
resulting from poor management and insufficient control of the enormous bureaucratic 

Educated Greeks in Alexandria and other strongholds of Greek culture looked down 
on anyone who did not have a Greek education and some Egyptians came to hate their 
Greek overlords, but, for the most part, Egyptians and Greeks coexisted with a minimum 
of antipathy. Those problems that did exist (and there were more as the Ptolemaic period 
progressed) were far more frequently economic than cultural, and were frequently caused 

Late and Ptolemaic periods 75 

by corrupt officials. The resulting discontent and antagonism toward the system, 
combined with weak central government in the middle Ptolemaic period, or with dynastic 
strife in the later Ptolemaic period, produced a climate of rebellion, usually Egyptian-led 
(although sometimes Greek-led) and apparently never ethnically based. 

Essentially, Ptolemaic Egypt was home to two separate, vital cultures maintained side 
by side, which occasionally interacted. The Ptolemies presented themselves to their 
Egyptian subjects as good Egyptian kings, and to their Greek-speaking subjects as good 
Greek kings (the ideals of kingship were much the same). In law there were two separate 
legal systems, Greek when the documents were written in Greek, Egyptian when the 
documents were written in demotic. In at least some legal matters Egyptian law was more 
favorable than Greek (especially in the case of women's rights) and people who had a 
choice (for example, bilingual/bicultural people, especially in families in which there had 
been intermarriage) would choose to write their documents in Egyptian. In addition, all 
residents of Egypt, whether Greek-speaking or Egyptian-speaking, were subject to a 
system of royal law. 

Both Greek and Egyptian literary traditions flourished. Extensive papyrus collections 
of Greek classics have been found even in relatively small, "provincial" towns with a 
Greek population. However, this period also was one in which major Egyptian literary 
texts of a number of genres were composed. Traditional genres, such as wisdom texts and 
narrative stories, were joined by genres with a Greek-flavored sub-stratum; but literary 
influence worked in both directions. There are examples of Egyptian mythical narrative 
tales translated into Greek, and some narrative stories about Egyptian kings are preserved 
only in Greek. The propagandistic value of Late period Egyptian literature and the 
participation of Egyptian writers in a larger, pan-Near Eastern approach to life have been 
noted. In art, too, the Egyptians of the Ptolemaic period demonstrated the vitality of their 
cultural tradition. 

Although some authors stress the popularity of animal cults and other signs of 
"popular," as opposed to formal, religion, the animal cults were not only popular with the 
masses but were also subsidized by the king (whether "Egyptian," Persian, or "Greek"). 
At the same time the king was encouraging more standard traditional religion, including 
the cult of the divine ruler as well as those of old favorites such as Osiris and Isis (whose 
popularity spread far beyond Egypt). The new cult of Serapis was a very successful 
attempt by the early Ptolemies to make Egyptian religion appeal to the Greeks. 

One of the most visible developments during the Late period is the role of apocalyptic 
literature in the life and politics of Egypt as well as in much of the rest of the Near East. 
Egypt has a long tradition of apocalyptic literature, dating back at least to the Middle 
Kingdom. The kings of Egypt are generally presented in the formal literature as "semi- 
divine," with links between the people and the gods and partaking a bit of each. In the 
Late period, the ideal Egyptian king had the same characteristics as earlier kings: he was 
beneficent to the gods, he carried out the law, he protected his people from foreign 
invasion and he followed all the proper rituals. But a new element was added: the idea 
that the length and success of a king's reign directly reflected the extent to which he had 
acted as a proper king. In the past the Egyptian king had been assumed to be "good"; now 
it was assumed that the real nature of his leadership could be told from the length of his 
reign. This same tradition is found in Hebrew texts, such as the Biblical books of Kings, 
Judges and Chronicles. Conflict between the ideal king (who was merciful, just and 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 76 

powerful, and the guarantor of world order, ma' at) and the actual king was resolved by 
inserting a god or gods above the ruling king in the chain of command. Contemporary 
wisdom texts argued that wisdom consisted of self-control and pious acceptance of 
whatever the gods might send. Although man had moral freedom of choice and god 
endowed man with the capacity for good, and although proper conduct should result in 
happiness and prosperity, it was recognized that, in reality, this did not always happen. 
Divine will, unfathomable to man, manifested itself through Fate and Fortune and man 
must accept what came. Such concepts are also paralleled in non-Egyptian literature, 
including the Biblical story of Job. It is not to be suggested that either the Egyptian or the 
West Asian tradition was influencing the other, but rather that similar circumstances may 
have led to a similarity in world view. This apocalyptic vision appealed to 
"downtrodden" people, both in Egypt and elsewhere in the Hellenistic world. 

To the extent that "foreign" rulers acted as traditional Egyptian pharaohs and allowed 
themselves to be presented as such to the Egyptians, the pragmatic Egyptians were 
satisfied and Egyptian civilization adapted to new conditions while remaining essentially 
Egyptian. Other institutions underwent some change (for example, the increase of foreign 
trade, the beginning of a monetary economy, the introduction of a mercenary army tied 
secondarily to the land, the introduction of demotic as the normal written language and 
the use of foreign languages in the court) without producing fundamental changes in 
Egypt's institutional structure. Thus, although Egypt in the Late period had been removed 
from its earlier isolation and forced to be part of a larger world, its Egyptian character, 
attitude and ideals were not lost. 

See also 

Alexandria; Assyrians; Egyptian language and writing; Herodotus; Israelites; kingship; 
Kushites; ma' at; Macedonians; Naukratis; Persians; Rosetta Stone; Saqqara, Serapeum 
and animal necropolis; textual sources, Late period; Third Intermediate Period, overview 

Further reading 

Bowman, A.K. 1986. Egypt After the Pharaohs, 332 BC-AD 642. Berkeley, CA. 

Briant, P. 1996. Histoire de V empire perse, De Cyrus a Alexandre. Paris. 

Porten, B. 1968. Archives from Elephantine, The Life of an Ancient Jewish Military Colony. 

Berkeley, CA. 
Ray, J.D. 1988. Egypt 525-404 B.C. In The Cambridge Ancient History 4, 2nd edn, J.Boardman et 

al., eds, ch. 3. Cambridge. 
Samuel, A.E. 1989. The Shifting Sands of History: Interpretations of Ptolemaic Egypt. Lanham, 



Roman period, overview 

The Roman period in Egypt is conventionally defined as extending from the conquest of 
Egypt by Augustus in 30 BC to the reorganization of the administration of Egypt by 
Diocletian in the late third century AD. Identification of these three centuries as forming 
a distinct period in Egyptian history is relatively recent. Nineteenth-century and early 
twentieth-century scholars tended to treat Roman Egypt as little more than a phase in the 
history of an entity they called Graeco-Roman Egypt. Contemporary historians of ancient 
Egypt, however, increasingly recognize the establishment of Roman rule in Egypt as 
marking a fundamental break with many of the cultural and institutional traditions of 
Ptolemaic Egypt. 

Augustus's triumphal entry into Alexandria in 30 BC was the climax to almost three 
centuries of growing Roman influence over Ptolemaic Egypt. An embassy sent by 
Ptolemy II in 273 BC to congratulate Rome on the city's victory over Pyrrhus had begun 
the process. By the mid-second century BC, however, the initiative had passed to Rome, 
and Egypt had become a virtual Roman protectorate, whose fortunes varied with the 
whims of the Senate. Egypt was saved from annexation by the Seleucid king Antiochus 
IV in 168 BC by Roman intervention, but suffered the loss of Cyrene, on the Libyan 
coast, and Cyprus a few years later as a result of Senatorial arbitration of the conflicting 
claims to the throne of Ptolemy VI and his brother Ptolemy VIII. A century later, Roman 
protection had hardened into domination. Cyrene and Cyprus were both annexed by 
Rome, and Ptolemy XI, the father of Cleopatra VII, owed his throne to successful bribery 
of Roman politicians and the support of a Roman army. The attempt by Cleopatra VII to 
reverse the process of Egypt's decline and regain at least a part of her kingdom's empire 
in North Africa and the Near East, through cultivation of Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, 
failed disastrously at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. With her suicide the following year, 
three centuries of Macedonian rule in Egypt ended. 

Roman annexation of Egypt not only marked the end of Macedonian rule in Egypt. It 
also meant the end of the history of Egypt as an independent state in antiquity. The 
emperor Augustus disingenuously claimed in his autobiographical obituary, the Res 
Gestae Divi Augusti, that he had added Egypt to the empire of the Roman people. The 
reality was different. Egypt had become a province of the Roman empire, but it was a 
special kind of province. Augustus and his successors ruled Egypt as successors of the 
Ptolemies and treated Egypt and its great wealth as their personal property, a relationship 
that was symbolized by the extended ceremonial visits to Egypt made by several reigning 
emperors during this period. The integration of Egypt into the Roman imperial system 
meant, however, that it also quickly felt the effects of problems elsewhere in the Roman 
empire. Thus, Egypt's agricultural wealth drew it into the imperial succession crises of 
AD 68-70 and 193-7, while the collapse of Roman power in the Near East following the 
defeat in AD 260 of the emperor Valerian by the Sassanid Persian ruler Shapur I resulted 
in the temporary subjection of Egypt to Palmyrene rule (AD 269-71). 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 78 

Rome's interest in Egypt was primarily fiscal. The Ptolemies had been the wealthiest 
of the Hellenistic kings, and maintaining the economic system that had produced that 
wealth with its numerous monopolies and taxes was one of the chief priorities of 
Augustus and his successors. Above all, however, the Roman government was concerned 
with the successful functioning of Egyptian agriculture and the collection of the grain tax, 
which was paid in kind and supplied fully one-third of the grain consumed annually in 

To accomplish these goals, Augustus imposed a centralized administration on Egypt 
that was headed by an equestrian prefect appointed by the emperor and supported by a 
military force of almost three legions (later reduced to two). Access to Egypt was strictly 
controlled. Senators were forbidden to enter the country without the permission of the 
emperor, nor did the Senate exercise jurisdiction in Egypt, where imperial decrees were 
the ultimate source of new law and policy. The prefect was the official ultimately 
responsible for the implementation of imperial policy and the resolution of legal disputes. 
At the local level there was superficial continuity with Ptolemaic Egypt — indeed, even 
with pharaonic Egypt — since the basis of local administration remained the division of 
the country into nomes (thirty-six in the time of Augustus). Beneath the surface, however, 
there was a fundamental redistribution of power. The nome governors, the strategoi 
(generals), who were recruited from the local population and had had both military and 
civilian functions in the Ptolemaic period, became strictly civilian officials. Henceforth, 
military authority in Egypt was exercised only by the Roman garrison commanders. The 
situation was similar with regard to social and cultural life in Roman Egypt. 

Roman Egypt was a multi-ethnic society that included not only the native Egyptian 
population, but also a much smaller immigrant population of Macedonians, Greeks, Jews 
and other non-Egyptians, most of whom had settled in Egypt during the Ptolemaic period. 
Under the Ptolemies these various groups had coexisted with relatively little social 
interaction. This situation had been facilitated by the fact that the vast majority of the 
Egyptians lived in agricultural villages scattered along the Nile under their own law and 
officials, while the bulk of the immigrant population was concentrated in the three Greek 
cities of Egypt — the old Greek colony of Naukratis and the new foundations of 
Alexandria and Ptolemais — and a number of settlements that had been founded by the 
Ptolemies on reclaimed land in the Fayum. Although outbreaks of ethnic violence 
occurred throughout the Ptolemaic period, overall social peace was maintained by two 
factors: extensive Ptolemaic subsidization of Egyptian religion and the Egyptian priestly 
elite, and toleration of the usurpation of the privileges of Greek status by Hellenized Jews 
and Egyptians by the later Ptolemies, who needed the support of such groups to counter 
their unpopularity with the Greek population of Alexandria. Except for the foundation of 
a fourth Greek city, Antinoopolis, by the emperor Hadrian in the second century AD, the 
substitution of Roman for Ptolemaic rule brought little change in the outward 
organization of Egyptian society. The tone of the society of Roman Egypt, however, was 
significantly different from that of Ptolemaic Egypt. 

The Roman government recognized four principal ethnic groups in Egypt: Romans, 
Greeks, Jews, and Egyptians. Greek status, however, was limited to the citizens of the 
four Greek cities. All residents of the Egyptian countryside, whatever their origin, were 
Egyptians. Change of status was difficult as intermarriage between Greeks and non- 
Greeks was generally forbidden, as was admission of non-Greeks to the gymnasia, the 

Roman period 79 

principal institutional centers of Hellenization. Even the adoption of a Greek name by an 
Egyptian required the permission of the Roman government of Egypt. The result of these 
changes was a hardening of the divisions between the various ethnic groups in Egypt. In 
the cities a rigid social hierarchy emerged with the privileges of citizenship being limited 
to Romans and Greeks and Egyptians being treated as resident aliens, while Jews 
occupied an uneasy and unstable intermediate status. In the nome capitals and villages, 
the descendants of Ptolemaic Greek settlers lost their privileged status. Poor Greeks 
tended increasingly to disappear into the mass of the rural Egyptian population; wealthy 
Greeks sought to avoid a similar fate by vigorously cultivating their Greek identity 
through education and support of Greek cultural institutions such as the gymnasia. At the 
same time, the combination of the heavy and regressive burden, represented by taxes 
such as the grain and poll taxes, and a decline in the level of government subsidization of 
Egyptian religion led to a general worsening of the social and economic situation of the 
Egyptian priestly elite in particular, and the Egyptian peasantry in general. Clear evidence 
of this decline in the welfare of the native Egyptian population can be found in the sharp 
reduction in the number of wealthy native burials, the numerous references in the 
documentary sources for Roman Egypt to the abandonment of villages and agricultural 
land, and the growth of banditry. 

Roman Egypt was not only ethnically diverse, it was also culturally diverse. Three 
written languages — Egyptian in its various forms, Greek and Latin — were in common use 
throughout the period, and speakers of many more languages could be encountered in its 
more cosmopolitan urban centers, such as Alexandria and Memphis. There was, 
therefore, no single Roman Egyptian culture, but rather several sub-cultures in Roman 
Egypt, whose vigor varied with the state of the ethnic groups that produced them. A good 
example is provided by Judaeo-Greek literature, which had flourished in Ptolemaic and 
early Roman Egypt, but later disappeared as a result of the decimation of the Egyptian 
Jewish community following the Jewish uprisings in North Africa and Egypt in AD 115- 
17. Greek culture, however, flourished in Roman Egypt. 

Despite recurrent outbreaks of violence in Alexandria resulting from Rome's refusal to 
accede to the demands of the Alexandrian Greeks for a city council, it was Roman policy 
to encourage and support Greek culture in Egypt. The great cultural institutions of 
Ptolemaic Alexandria, the Museum and the Library, continued to function. The city 
remained a center for research and education in literature, philosophy and the sciences — 
particularly medicine and mathematics in all its forms — throughout the period. 
Alexandria was also a center of the arts, and craft goods made in the city's workshops or 
reflecting fashions popular there, such as themes drawn from the Egyptian daily life, are 
found throughout the Roman empire and far beyond its borders. Greek culture in Roman 
Egypt was not, however, limited to Alexandria. Theaters, schools and gymnasia existed 
in the Greek settlements and nome capitals of the Fayum and Middle and Upper Egypt, 
while the papyri document the availability of a wide range of Greek literature to the 
educated Greek elite of Roman Egypt as a whole. The wide distribution of Greek culture 
in Egypt is well illustrated by the varied origins of the principal Greek writers of Roman 
Egypt. So, Alexandria produced the Roman historian Appian and the mathematician and 
astronomer Ptolemy, Naukratis the grammarian Athenaeus, and Lycopolis the 
philosopher Plotinus, the founder of Neoplatonism. A firm foundation, therefore, was laid 
during the first three centuries of the Christian era for the remarkable efflorescence of 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 80 

Greek literature and art that made Byzantine Egypt one of the chief centers of Greek 
cultural activity in late antiquity. 

However, conditions in Roman Egypt were much less favorable for traditional 
Egyptian culture. The artistic and literary activity that had made the Ptolemaic period one 
of the great creative periods of ancient Egyptian culture gradually ceased during the 
Roman period, and the reason is clear. Unlike the Ptolemies, who had needed the support 
of the temple priesthoods to govern, the Roman emperors, rulers of a vast empire rather 
than kings of Egypt — no emperor ever underwent a proper Egyptian coronation — did not. 
Consequently, although Roman building and repair activity is attested at many Egyptian 
religious sites, including the Great Sphinx at Giza and the Temple of Amon at Karnak, 
the level of government support for Egyptian religion dropped sharply while government 
control increased. The temples were put under the direct supervision of the Roman 
government, which took over the management of their lands and allowed their staffs only 
an annual allowance for expenses. By the second century AD, Roman control of the 
temples had been centralized under an equestrian official resident at Alexandria, the High 
Priest of Egypt. Candidates for the priesthood were required to have all aspects of their 
candidacy certified by the government, including even their circumcision. The priestly 
synods that had been so characteristic a feature of Ptolemaic Egypt disappeared, as did 
the rich burials of the high priests of Memphis and the holders of other major priesthoods. 
The impact of these changes on Egyptian culture was severe. The priesthood continued to 
be trained in the old scripts, and hieroglyphic and demotic inscriptions were still being 
written in late antiquity, but no significant new literary composition can be dated to the 
Roman period, and even demotic literary papyri cease after the early second century AD. 
In many respects, therefore, little more remained of traditional Egyptian culture by the 
early fourth century AD than the great monuments that so impressed the Greek and 
Roman tourists who covered them with graffiti, and the myth of Egypt as the land of 
primordial wisdom that dominates accounts of the country in Greek and Latin in late 

The basic conditions that had governed life in Roman Egypt since the reign of 
Augustus changed dramatically during the third century AD. The Augustan organization 
of Egypt gradually broke down during the political and economic upheavals of the 
middle and late third century AD. This was replaced by Diocletian with a radically 
different administrative structure in which Egypt was divided into three provinces, each 
with its own civil governor, while military authority was concentrated in the hands of a 
single dux (military commander). The social structure of Roman Egypt was also 
transformed by the extension of Roman citizenship to virtually all inhabitants of the 
country in AD 212 by the Constitutio Antoniniana, which obliterated the system of 
hierarchically ranked ethnic groups on which the previous social structure had been 
based. This was now replaced by a simpler system in which people were divided 
economically into rich and poor with different and unequal privileges ascribed to each by 
law, the division into honestiores and humiliores that characterized society everywhere in 
the late Roman empire. The distinction between Greek and Egyptian culture also 
gradually disappeared everywhere except in the closed world of the temples, as the 
spread of the new religion of Christianity led to the appearance of a new cultural division 
of Egypt into pagans and Christians. In Egypt, as elsewhere in late antiquity, pagan 
culture increasingly came to be identified with a new cosmopolitan form of Greek culture 

Roman period 8 1 

scholars call "Hellenism," while Egyptian Christians used the new Coptic alphabet to 
create a Christian literature in Egyptian that would be free both of Hellenism and the 
millennia-old traditions of pharaonic Egypt. By the beginning of the fourth century AD, 
therefore, the basic pattern of life in Byzantine Egypt had begun to emerge clearly. 

See also 

Abu Sha'ar; Alexandria; Antinoopolis; Dakhla Oasis, Dynastic and Roman sites; Late 
and Ptolemaic periods, overview; Macedonians; Marea; Naukratis; Philae; Roman forts 
in Egypt; Roman ports, Red Sea 

Further reading 

Bell, H.I. 1948. Egypt: From Alexander the Great to the Arab Conquest. Oxford. 

. 1957. Cults and Creeds in Graeco-Roman Egypt. Liverpool. 

Bowman, A.K. 1986. Egypt after the Pharaohs: 332 BC-AD 642 from Alexander to the Arab 

Conquest. Berkeley, CA. 
Friedman, F.D.1989. Beyond the Pharaohs: Egypt and the Copts in 2nd to 7th Centuries A.D, 

Providence, RI. 
Johnson, A.C. 1951. Egypt and the Roman Empire. Ann Arbor, MI. 
Johnson, J.H., ed. 1992. Life in a Multi-Cultural Society: Egypt from Cambyses to Constantine and 

Beyond. Chicago. 
Lewis, N.L. 1983. Life in Egypt under Roman Rule. London. 
Rowlandson, J. 1996. Landowners and Tenants in Roman Egypt. Oxford. 


Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 82 


A-Group culture 

The A-Group is a distinctive culture of Lower Nubia contemporary with the Predynastic 
(Nagada) culture of Upper Egypt. This culture was first identified by George Reisner, 
who studied the artifacts collected during the First Archaeological Survey of Nubia 
(1907-8). Reisner's classification was later revised by Trigger, Adams and Nordstrom, 
based on archaeological evidence from the UNESCO salvage campaign in Nubia (1959- 

A-Group sites have been recorded throughout Lower Nubia (between the First and 
Second Cataracts). A few sites are known in the Batn el-Hajar region, and near Seddenga 
in the Abri-Delgo reach (south of the Second Cataract). Recently an A-Group site was 
discovered at Kerma, near the Third Cataract. A-Group sites include both settlements and 

Diagnostic elements of this culture are pottery and graves. The pottery includes 
several different types of vessels. Black-topped pots, with a polished red slip exterior and 
a black interior and rim, are common. These pots, though similar to those of the Nagada 
culture in Upper Egypt, were locally manufactured. Pots with a painted geometric 
decoration, sometimes imitating basketwork, are particularly distinctive of this culture. 

A-Group graves include mainly simple oval pits, and oval pits with a chamber on one 
side. There is no clear evidence of grave superstructures. At a single site, Tunqala West, 
tumuli with an offering place of stone and an uninscribed grave stela were recorded. 

In A-Group burials, the bodies were laid in a contracted position on the right side, 
usually with the head to the west. Grave goods were arranged around the body. Seated 
female figurines are a distinctive type of grave goods found in some A-Group burials. 
Luxury imported goods, such as beads of Egyptian manufacture, have also been 
excavated. Poorer graves, with a few simple grave goods or no grave goods, occur as 
well. These were initially classified by Reisner as another culture which he called the B- 
Group. At present, "B-Group" graves are considered to be evidence of lower status 
individuals in the A-Group. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 84 

Excavations of A-Group settlements suggest seasonal or temporary camps, sometimes 
reoccupied for a long time. A few sites have evidence of architecture, such as houses 
constructed of stone with up to six rooms. Three large (Terminal) A-Group centers were 
located at Dakka, Qustul and Seyala, where some elaborate burials have been recorded, 
but the archaeological evidence does not demonstrate the emergence of an early state. 

Agriculture was practiced by the A-Group, who cultivated wheat, barley and lentils. 
Animal husbandry was certainly an important component of their subsistence economy, 
but evidence for it is scarce. 

The chronology of the A-Group is divided into three periods: 

1 Early A-Group, contemporary to the Nagada I and early Nagada II phases in Upper 

Egypt, with sites from Kubbaniya to Seyala; 

2 Classic A-Group, contemporary to Nagada lid— Ilia, with sites in Lower Nubia and 

south of the Second Cataract in the northern Batn el-Hajar region; 

3 Terminal A-Group, contemporary to Nagada Illb, Dynasty and the early 1st Dynasty, 

with sites in Lower Nubia and northern Upper Nubia. 

The dating of the A-Group culture is still debated, however. Based on the evidence of 
Nagada culture artifacts in Lower Nubian graves, the A-Group arose in the first half of 
the fourth millennium BC. It is usually assumed that the A-Group disappeared in Lower 
Nubia during the Egyptian Early Dynastic period (lst-2nd Dynasties), as a consequence 
of Egyptian military intervention there. 

The origins of the A-Group are not yet well understood. Trade contacts with Upper 
Egypt were an important factor in the social and economic development of the A-Group. 
In Nagada II times, trade with Upper Egypt greatly increased, as can be inferred from the 
great number of Nagada culture artifacts in A-Group graves. The occurrence of rock 
drawings of Nagada Il-style boats at Seyala might suggest that this was an important 
trading center. 

In the early 1st Dynasty, Egyptian policy in Nubia changed and raids were made as far 
south as the Second Cataract. Evidence of this is seen in a rock drawing at Gebel Sheikh 
Suleiman (near Wadi Haifa) recording a raid against the Nubians by a king of the 1st 
Dynasty (possibly Djet). A fortified Egyptian settlement was probably founded in the late 
2nd Dynasty at Buhen, to the north of the Second Cataract. 

Archaeological evidence points to a substantial abandonment of Lower Nubia in Old 
Kingdom times. Yet the occurrence of A-Group potsherds in the Egyptian town at Buhen 
dating to the 4th-5th Dynasties suggests that some A-Group peoples were still living in 
the region then. Moreover, the discovery of a few A-Group sites between the Second and 
Third Cataracts (between the Batn el-Hajar and Kerma) points to a progressive movement 
southward in Upper Nubia of A-Group peoples. 

See also 

Early Dynastic period, overview; Kerma; Predynastic period, overview 

Entries A-Z 85 

Further reading 

Adams, W. Y. 1977. Nubia, Corridor to Africa. London. 

O'Connor, D. 1978. Nubia before the New Kingdom. In Africa in Antiquity: The Arts of Ancient 

Nubia and the Sudan 1:46-61. New York. 
Trigger, B.C. 1976. Nubia under the Pharaohs. London. 


Abu Gurab 

Along the edge of the desert plateau at Abu Gurab (29°54' N, 31°12' E) and neighboring 
Abusir, roughly 15km south of Cairo, lie the sites for the 5th Dynasty pyramids and sun 
temples. Except for a scattering of Early Dynastic cemeteries between the village of 
Abusir northward to the Saqqara plateau, no activity previous to the 5th Dynasty has been 
attested in the immediate vicinity. Queen Khentkaues, the link between the 4th and 5th 
Dynasties, was buried at Giza, while her husband Weserkaf, the first king of the 5th 
Dynasty, located his modestly sized pyramid in the northern part of Saqqara, near the 
north-east corner of the Zoser complex. Nonetheless, Weserkaf was the first king to build 
a sun temple, naming it "the Fortress of Re" ("W*" R'). This is the first known sun 
temple and one of only two such structures preserved; the other was built by Nyuserre. 

It is unclear why Weserkaf selected the previously unused site of Abu Gurab, 
approximately 5km north of his pyramid, but perhaps at the time of the sun temple's 
construction the administrative capital and royal residence had already relocated in the 
vicinity of Abusir. Most of what we know about the activities of the new dynasty derives 
from this region. 

According to the Middle Kingdom Tale of Djedi and the Magicians, the first three 
kings of the 5th Dynasty were triplets and the physical progeny of the sun god Re. There 
appears to be some truth behind this myth: not only were the second and third kings of 
the dynasty brothers, but these rulers also exhibited an unusually strong devotion to Re, 
particularly in his aspect as a universal creator deity. The sun temple itself offers proof of 
their piety, since it represented a new type of temple in many ways. Among other things, 
these temples were the first known instances of Egyptian monarchs dedicating large-scale 
stone structures entirely separate from their funerary monuments. No fewer than six kings 
of the 5th Dynasty are known to have built this kind of temple: Weserkaf, Sahure, 
Neferirkare, Reneferef or Neferefre, Nyuserre and Menkauhor. 

Judging from the numerous references to this type of temple in official titles and other 
records, the sun temples were among the most important institutions in the land. Their 
great economic power is reflected in the fact that, according to the Abusir Papyri, 
offerings sent to the royal mortuary temples were dispensed first through the associated 
sun temples. Yet it appears that no single Egyptian term for sun temple exists. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 86 

Like the classical pyramid complex of the 4th Dynasty, a sun temple can be divided 
into three major sections according to function. First, there was a small valley temple at 
the edge of cultivation or an access canal; second, a relatively short causeway led up to 
the desert from the valley temple; and at the desert plateau stood the third and major part, 
the sun temple proper. The division of the complex into upper and lower portions was 
certainly dictated by practical considerations, but it also reflected a separation of the cult 
place from administrative buildings and the profane world in general. Excavations about 
the valley temple of Nyuserre's sun temple have revealed that a small village of privately 
built houses sprang up there over the years, without doubt due to the temple's importance 
to the local economy. 

Because the central portions of the only two sun temples thus far located are so badly 
preserved, excavators have had to rely on the hieroglyphic signs in the temples' names in 
order to reconstruct the shape of their characteristic feature, the obelisk. It is only from 
such textual evidence that we know that squat, perhaps even truncated, obelisks stood 
atop a platform and dominated the large rectangular open court of the upper temples. At 
Nyuserre's sun temple the obelisk mentioned in an inscription from the Zoser complex 
was constructed out of irregularly shaped stone blocks ingeniously fitted together and 
may have risen to a height of approximately 35m. In some cases either a disk or a cross- 
like appendage may have been affixed to the top of the obelisk. 

These first known obelisks in ancient Egypt are somewhat problematic. Although the 
obelisk and the sun temple have been connected with the "high sand of Heliopolis" and 
the Heliopolitan sun cult, the evidence does not bear these suppositions out. For one 
thing, the obelisk at Weserkaf's sun temple appears to have been added much later by 
Neferirkare, the third king of the dynasty. 

The influence of the sun cult is evident in the large court where sacrifices could be 
made in the bright sunlight, rather than in darkened inner chambers as is so often the case 
in Egyptian temples. In front of the obelisk was the altar where the presumably burnt 
offerings were made. The sides of the altar at Nyuserre's temple were formed into four 
large hotep (offering) signs, each oriented roughly toward a cardinal point of the 
compass, a noteworthy example of the intimate relationship between art, architecture and 
writing in ancient Egyptian culture. 

According to the Palermo Stone, a 5th Dynasty king list, Weserkaf established at his 
sun temple a daily offering to Re of two oxen and two geese. This largesse may not be an 
exaggeration, since the two surviving sun temples were both provided with sizable 
slaughterhouses; two, in the case of the sun temple of Nyuserre, named "Re's Favorite 
Place" (Ssp-ib-R'). The Abusir Papyri show that the slaughterhouses at the sun temples 
supplied the needs of the associated mortuary temples of the pyramid complexes. Some 
of the material distributed to the sister institution of Nyuserre's mortuary temple would 
probably have come from the large covered storehouse containing several magazines that 
was located adjacent to the sun temple's slaughterhouse. 

Art that has survived at the sun temples seems to have been commissioned by 
Nyuserre. The so-called "Room of the Seasons" in Nyuserre's sun temple, which linked a 
covered corridor with the obelisk platform, was decorated with a group of reliefs 
portraying the activities of man and animals through the three Egyptian seasons. Near 
these were other reliefs which depicted the Heb-sed festival, an important ritual of royal 
renewal. Nyuserre also had part of Weserkaf's sun temple decorated with similar scenes 

Entries A-Z 87 

from the same festival, but executed in a smaller scale. Most likely, chapels at both 
temples were used during the celebration. The reliefs in both places are executed in a 
fine, wafer-thin style that is characteristic of royal work of the 5th Dynasty. 

The area immediately to the south of the enclosure wall of Nyuserre's sun temple has 
yielded another interesting feature, a large (30x10m) sun boat that was buried in a 
mudbrick-lined chamber to the south of the temple complex. 

Abu Gurab/Abusir after the 5th Dynasty 

With the reign of Djedkare Isesi, the eighth king of the 5th Dynasty, royal activity at Abu 
Gurab and Abusir abruptly ceased. Isesi did not erect a sun temple, and chose to be 
buried at South Saqqara. The Abusir plateau had become overcrowded by the reign of 
Menkauhor and the administrative capital may have been shifted back south to Saqqara 
again. Although there are no Old Kingdom tombs datable later than the 5th Dynasty, a 
number of loose blocks and stelae found near the mastabas show that Abusir certainly 
was not abandoned. This is not surprising because the Abusir Papyri reveal that the royal 
funerary establishments were still in operation as late as the reign of Pepi II (late 6th 
Dynasty). Although the papyri show that at times a large number of people were 
employed at these establishments or derived income from their endowments, the Abu 
Gurab/Abusir region was rarely used as a necropolis after the 5th Dynasty. 

In the Middle Kingdom a number of tombs, whose superstructures are nearly all 
destroyed, were built near Nyuserre's pyramid at Abusir. A small sanctuary dedicated to 
the chief goddess of the Memphite region was erected in the southern part of Sahure's 
mortuary temple during the New Kingdom. It is uncertain how long this cult functioned. 
Thereafter, except for occasional burials during the Late period, the Abusir plateau seems 
to have fallen into disuse. 

See also 

Abusir; Giza, Khufu pyramid sun barks and boat pit; Old Kingdom, overview; pyramids 
(Old Kingdom), construction of; Saqqara, pyramids of the 5th and 6th Dynasties 

Further reading 

Hart, G. 1991. Pharaohs and Pyramids: A Guide through Old Kingdom Egypt. London. 
Stadelmann, R. 1984. Sonnenheiligtum. LA 5: 1094-9. Wiesbaden. 

. 1985. Das Konigtum von Re. In Die Agyptischen Pyramiden. Vom Ziegelbau zum 

Weltwunder (Kulturgeschichte der Antiken Welt 30), 159-80. Mainz. 


Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 88 

Abu Roash 

Abu Roash is a village about 9km north of the pyramids of Giza (30°02' N, 31°04' E). It 
is chiefly known as the site of the 4th Dynasty pyramid of Djedefre (Redjedef), which 
was built on an eminence 2km west of the village, in the white limestone hills west of the 
Nile. In 1842-3, Richard Lepsius recorded this pyramid and a second one built of 
mudbricks, situated on the easternmost promontory of the hills. J.S. Perring, who visited 
Abu Roash five years before Lepsius, also thought the core belonged to a pyramid of 
"apparent antiquity." Current opinion is skeptical that the mudbrick construction is 
actually a pyramid, although Swelim identified it as such in his investigation of the site in 
1985-6. Perhaps originally this structure was a large mastaba tomb. Long stripped of its 
bricks, this structure now consists of a bare rock core, part of an entrance corridor 
(sloping from north to south at an angle of 25°), and a rock-cut tomb chamber with a 
floor measuring 5.5m square and 5m in height. The mudbricks were laid over the rock 
core in accretion layers inclining inward at an angle of 75°-76°. 

Apart from the excavation of tombs dating from the lst-2nd Dynasties and the 4th-5th 
Dynasties, by A.Klasens for the Leiden Museum of Antiquities in 1957-9, all the major 
archaeological work at Abu Roash has been conducted under the auspices of the French 
Institute of Archaeology in Cairo. Emile Chassinat excavated at the stone pyramid 
complex in 1901-3, followed by Lacau in 1913. In 1995 a combined expedition of the 
French Institute and the Department of Egyptology of the University of Geneva began 
joint excavations under the direction of Valloggia at the stone pyramid, which are still in 
progress. The private tombs, mostly dating from the lst-2nd Dynasties and the 4th-5th 
Dynasties, were excavated by P.Montet in 1913-14, and by Fernand Bisson de la Roque 
in 1922-5. The design of the earliest tombs and the high quality of some of the artifacts 
found in them demonstrated that their owners were high status individuals, suggesting 
that Abu Roash was an administrative center long before the time of Djedefre. 

Djedefre, who reigned for at least eight years, was a son of Khufu, the builder of the 
Great Pyramid at Giza. All that remains of the superstructure of his pyramid is a flat- 
topped edifice, which measures about 98m square with a height of about 12m. Its core of 
rock is surrounded by about ten courses of local stone. All four sides were overlaid with 
red Aswan granite. When complete, each side of the pyramid at the base measured 106m 
(202 cubits) and its height would have been about 67m (128 cubits). The sides sloped 
inwards at an angle of approximately 52°. Possibly the granite casing was not intended to 
be higher than the present level of the core. Many centuries of demolition have resulted in 
the loss of virtually all the casing stones of the buildings in the complex leaving piles of 
granite chips, some as high as 5m. 

A perpendicular shaft, measuring 23m east-west and 10m north-south, was sunk 
through the center of the rock to a depth of more than 20m. At the bottom were the burial 
chamber and at least one antechamber, probably built of granite, with access from a 
northern entrance corridor. The chambers may have had corbel roofs or roofs with 
superimposed relieving compartments, like those in the Great Pyramid. Only some 

Entries A-Z 

fragments of the king's granite sarcophagus have been found, but enough to suggest that 
it resembled the oval sarcophagus in the Unfinished Pyramid at Zawiyet el- Aryan. 

The entrance corridor, now destroyed, opened low on the north face of the pyramid. Its 
length was about 49m, oriented 21' west of north and with a slope of 26°, increasing to 
28°. The flat roof was constructed of slabs of granite and the thick walls of local stone, 
faced on the inside with granite. The floor was paved with limestone. It was constructed 
in an open trench which varied in width from 5.5m to 7.0m. The corridor was only about 
lm wide, but the trench needed to be wider so that the sarcophagus and massive floor 
blocks could be transported into the pyramid. This operation required enough space for 
workmen (and possibly oxen). Failure to make such a provision in the Great Pyramid 
may explain why Khufu's sarcophagus had to be placed in the superstructure. 

At the time of the king's death, work on the mortuary temple on the east side of the 
pyramid had not advanced beyond the construction of a court with a granite-paved floor. 
The necessary buildings were hastily constructed of mudbrick overlaid with a thick layer 
of plaster, undoubtedly painted to simulate stone. Among the few objects found were 
statues of three sons and two daughters of Djedefre, a painted limestone female sphinx 
and a small wooden hippopotamus. Outside the pyramid on the south side was a pit for a 
wooden boat more than 37m long and 9.5m deep in the middle. A small subsidiary 
pyramid stood opposite the southwest corner of the main pyramid. A causeway 1500m in 
length and 14m wide linked the pyramid enclosure with the valley temple next to the 

Despite its ruined state, the pyramid complex of Djedefre has yielded much of 
archaeological importance. By their design, the oval sarcophagus and the wide trench for 
the entrance corridor to the pyramid have helped to establish the date of the Unfinished 
Pyramid at Zawiyet el-Aryan. The discovery of circular bases and part of the shaft of a 
round column have shown that free-standing round columns were in use at an earlier date 
than had been supposed. North of the pyramid is a large enclosure of a kind known from 
step pyramids but not used with true pyramids until the Middle Kingdom. The mortuary 
temple had a very different plan from that of any other known temple, and the 1500m 
causeway leading from the Wadi Qaren to the pyramid is without parallel. Also important 
are the many artifacts which have been found in the excavations, including, most notably, 
three fine quartzite heads from broken life-size statues of the king now in the Louvre and 
the Cairo Museum. 

Near the mouth of the Wadi Qaren are the remains of a Coptic monastery mentioned 
by the Arab historian Maqrizi (AD 1364-1442) as being one of the most beautiful and 
best situated monasteries in Egypt. Built on a mound, it provided a fine view of the Nile. 
Also at the mouth of the wadi are the ruins of a mudbrick fort believed to date from the 
Middle Kingdom. 

See also 

Lepsius, Carl Richard; Old Kingdom, overview; pyramids (Old Kingdom), construction 
of; Zawiyet el- Aryan 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 90 

Further reading 

Edwards, I.E.S. 1994. Chephren's place among the kings of the Fourth Dynasty. In The Unbroken 

Reed: Studies in the Culture and Heritage of Ancient Egypt in Honour ofA.F. Shore, C.Eyre, 

A.Leahy and L.M.Leahy, eds, 97-105. London. 
Klasens, A. 1975. Abu Roach. In LA 1:24-5. Wiesbaden. 

Maragioglio, V., and C.Rinaldi. 1966. L'Architettura delle Piramidi Menfite 5: 10-40. Rapallo. 
Porter, B., and R.L.B.Moss, revised by J.Malek. 1974. Topographical Bibliography of Ancient 

Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings 3. Memphis, 1-10. Oxford. 
Valloggia, M. 1995. Fouilles archeologiques a Abu Rawash (Egypte). Rapport preliminaire de la 

Campagne 1995. Geneva, n.s. 43. 


Abu Sha'ar 

The late Roman (circa late third-sixth centuries AD) fort at Abu Sha'ar or Deir Umm 
Deheis (27°22' N, 33°41' E) on the Red Sea coast is circa 20km north of Hurgada and 
circa 2-3km east of the main Hurgada-Suez highway. The fort is circa 25m from the Red 
Sea at high tide. It sits on a natural sand and gravel bank several metres above the mud 
flats to the west; artificial ditches to the north and south augmented fort defenses. Visitors 
in the first half of the nineteenth century, including James Burton, J.G.Wilkinson, 
J.R.Wellsted and Richard Lepsius, erroneously identified the site with the Ptolemaic- 
Roman emporium of Myos Hormos, as have some subsequent visitors and scholars. 

Excavations by the University of Delaware (1987-93) revealed a fort built as part of 
the overall late third-early fourth centuries AD reorganization of frontier defenses 
throughout the entire Eastern Roman empire. The fort at Abu Sha'ar is of moderate 
dimensions with defensive walls enclosing an area circa 77. 5mx 64m. Walls were circa 
3.5-4m high (including parapet) and 1.5m thick (including a 0.5m wide catwalk). The 
walls were built of stacked igneous cobbles (from the foot of Gebel Abu Sha'ar, 5.5-6km 
west of Abu Sha'ar) with little binding material (mud). The fort had 12-13 quadrilaterally 
shaped towers of unequal dimensions built 

Entries A-Z 91 


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Figure 3 Plan of the fort at Abu Sha'ar 
as it appeared following the 1993 

of white gypsum blocks atop bases of gray igneous cobbles; the bottom interior portions 
of the towers were rubble filled. There were two main gates: a smaller one at the center 
north wall and a larger one at the center west wall. The main (west) gate was originally 
decorated with an arch and carved, decorated and painted (red and yellow) console blocks 
and other architectural elements. One or more Latin inscriptions recorded the Roman 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 92 

emperors Galerius, Licinius I, Maximinus II, Constantine I and the Roman governor 
Aurelius Maximinus (dux Aegypti Thebaidos utrarumque Libyarum). An inscription dates 
fort construction, or possibly "reconstruction," to AD 309-11. The garrison was a portion 
of the Ala Nova Maximiana, a mounted unit (probably dromedary) of approximately 200 

Gypsum catapult balls from the towers and fort indicate the presence of artillery. Sling 
stones suggest another mode of defense. No other weapons have been discovered nor is 
there evidence of deliberate destruction of the fort; it seems to have been peacefully 
abandoned by the military some time before the late fourth-early fifth centuries, a trend 
found elsewhere in the eastern Roman empire at that time. Following a period of 
abandonment, Christian squatters reoccupied the fort. Parts of the fort interior were used 
as trash dumps, while other areas were inhabited. The principia was converted into a 
church and the north gate became the principal entrance into the fortified area. Scores of 
graffiti, Christian crosses and two major ecclesiastical inscriptions in Greek at the north 
gate attest to the importance of Abu Sha'ar as a pilgrimage center at that time. 

A short distance outside the fort northwest of the north gate was a semicircular bath 
built of kiln-fired bricks covered with waterproof lime mortar. Other rooms of the bath, 
including a hypocaust, lay immediately to the west. Adjacent to the bath and northeast of 
the north gate were trash dumps; the former was late fourth-early fifth centuries, the latter 
fourth century. Immediately outside the north gate was a low diagonal wall of white 
gypsum circa 22m long; its function remains unknown. The fort interior had 38-9 rooms 
abutting the inside faces of the main fort walls (average dimensions: 4.4-5. 4x3. 2-3. 6m). 
These may have served multiple purposes including storage, guardroom facilities and, 
perhaps, living quarters. On the northern interior side were 54 barracks; 24 larger ones in 
the northeast quadrant averaged 3.0><4.0m. Thirty others in the northwest quadrant 
averaged 3.0-3. lx 3.3-3.4m. The lower walls were built of igneous cobbles circa 0.95m 
high, and the upper walls of mudbrick were of approximately the same height, for a total 
barracks height of circa 1.9m. Roofing was of wood (mainly acacia), matting and bundles 
of Juncus arabicus. 

The pr/nc/p/a/church in the center-east part of the fort was 12.6-12.8x22m, and circa 
2. 4-2. 6m high. It had an apse toward the east end, two rooms flanking the apse, and two 
rooms behind (east of) the apse which did not lead directly into the main part of the 
building. There were two column pedestals adjacent to (west of) the apse and there seem 
to have been wooden dividers separating the nave from the side aisles. Two smaller 
rooms at the west end flanked the building entrance. Roofing was of wood and bundled 
Juncus arabicus. A military duty roster dating no later than the fourth century, a Christian 
inscription of the fourth-sixth century, a textile cross embroidery, a 27-line papyrus in 
Greek from the fifth centuries, and human adult male bones wrapped in cloth were all 
found inside this building. The latter discovery in front of the apse suggested a cult of a 
martyr or saint, an especially popular practice in early Coptic religion. 

The main entrance of the pr/nc/p/a/church faced east onto a colonnaded street which 
led to the main west gate. White gypsum columns (circa 46-8cm in diameter), sat on two 
parallel socles (stylobates) of gray igneous cobbles. At least two columns with spherical 
bases also decorated one or both of the stylobates. The street between the stylobates was 
circa 4. 6-4. 7m wide. The buildings in the south-eastern quadrant included five storage 
magazines (horrea) fronting the main north-south street. East of these in the same block 

Entries A-Z 93 

were a kitchen, which included a large circular oven circa 3.4m in diameter made of kiln- 
fired bricks, small "pantries" and milling (grain olives) areas. 

A road joined the fort at Abu Sha'ar to the main (parent) camp at Luxor via 
Kainopolis (Qena) on the Nile circa 181km to the south-west. This road, dotted with 
cairns, signal and route marking towers and installations, including hydreumata (fortified 
water stations), facilitated traffic between Abu Sha'ar and the Nile, supported work crews 
hauling stone from the quarries at Mons Porphyrites (first-fourth centuries AD) and Mons 
Claudianus (first-third/early fourth centuries AD) and assisted Christian pilgrims 
traveling between points in Upper Egypt and holy sites in the Eastern Desert (Abu 
Sha'ar, monasteries of St Paul and St Anthony), Sinai (such as the Monastery of St 
Catherine) and the Holy Land itself via Aila (Aqaba). The fort and road also monitored 
activities of the local bedouin (Nobatae and Blemmyes), and may also have protected 
commercial activity. 

See also 

Mons Porphyrites; Roman forts in Egypt; Roman period, overview; Roman ports, Red 
Sea; Wadi Hammamat 

Further reading 

Sidebotham, S.E. 1992. A Roman fort on the Red Sea coast. Minerva 3 (2):5-8. 

. 1994. Preliminary report on the 1990-1991 seasons of fieldwork at Abu Sha'ar (Red Sea 

Coast). JARCE 31:133-58, also 159-68 on documents from the site. 
Sidebotham, S.E., R.E.Zitterkopf and J.A. Riley. 1991. Survey of the Abu Sha'ar-Nile Road. AJA 

95 (4):571-622. 


Abu Simbel 

Abu Simbel (22°21' N, 31°38' E) is situated 280km south of Aswan on the west bank of 
the Nile and approximately 52km north of the modern political boundary between Egypt 
and Sudan. Before the building of the Aswan High Dam (1960-70) and the subsequent 
flooding of Lake Nasser, there was a relatively rich agricultural zone on the east bank that 
extended down to the northern end of the Second Cataract region. In antiquity, this was 
one of the most populated regions in the typically narrow and barren river valley of 
Lower Nubia. 

The site of Abu Simbel is famous for the two rock-cut temples built during the reign 
of Ramesses II (19th Dynasty), not far from the earlier shrine of Horemheb at Abu Hoda. 
The site seems to have been previously considered sacred; there are numerous graffiti of 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 94 

the Old and Middle Kingdoms on the cliff face. Several inscriptions in the Small Temple 
refer to the cliff into which the temples were constructed as the "Holy Mountain." 

Although the Great Temple was dedicated to Re-Horakhty (Re-Horus of the Horizon), 
Amen and Ptah, many images of the deified king himself are also found in this temple. Its 
ancient name was "The Temple of Ramesses-Mery-Amen" (Ramesses II, Beloved of 
Amen). The Small Temple was dedicated to both Hathor of Ibshek (the nearby site of 
Faras) and Queen Nefertari. Twice a year, when the rising sun appeared above the 
horizon on the east bank, its rays passed through the entrance and halls of the Great 
Temple to illuminate the statues in the innermost sanctuary. 

In 1813, John Lewis Burckhardt stopped at Abu Simbel on his way up the Nile to 
Dongola, and thus became the first European to visit the site in modern times and record 
his experiences. Giovanni Belzoni, however, seems to have been the first to enter the 
Great Temple's halls, when he had the sand cleared from the structure in 1817. Carl 
Richard Lepsius copied the reliefs on the walls when he visited the site in 1844. Auguste 
Mariette again cleared the structure of sand in 1869. 

These temples were relocated in 1964-8 as part of the UNESCO campaign to rescue 
the monuments that were eventually to be flooded by the Nile after the completion of the 
Aswan High Dam. The structures, originally built inside two sandstone cliffs, were cut 
into blocks and reassembled at a site about 210m away from the river and some 65m 
higher up, atop the cliffs. Sections of the cliff face into which the facades were 
constructed were also removed and re-erected on an artificial hill built around the 
relocated temples. The repositioning of the buildings slightly changed the alignment of 
the Great Temple, so that the sanctuary is now illuminated one day later (22 February and 
22 October) than it was originally. 

Rock stelae and surrounding area 

Rock-cut stelae are located in the cliff face north and south of the entrances of the two 
temples, and also between them. A number of small inscriptions near the northern and 
southern ends of the cliff face date to the Middle Kingdom, while one at the northern end 
is attributed to a "Viceroy of Kush" during the reign of Amenhotep I. Most of the stelae, 
however, were dedicated by high officials of the Ramesside period. 

Although no settlement remains were ever identified in the vicinity of the temples, the 
statue of Re-Horakhty in the innermost sanctuary of the Great Temple is carved with an 
inscription mentioning "Horakhty in the midst of the town of the Temple/House of 

The Great Temple 

A gate on the north of an enclosure once led into a forecourt of the Great Temple. Four 
colossal seated statues of Ramesses II (over 20m high), wearing the Double Crown of 
Upper and Lower Egypt, were placed on a terrace on the western side of the court. 
Smaller standing statues of Queen Nefertari, the queen-mother Muttuya, and some of the 
royal children, embrace the king's legs. The colossi to the south of the temple entrance 

Entries A-Z 95 

have Carian, Ionian Greek and Phoenician graffiti inscribed on the legs. Some of these 
inscriptions were left by foreign mercenaries during the campaign of Psamtik II against 
the Kushites in the early sixth century BC. 

At the ends of the terrace are two decorated chapels, dedicated to the worship of Re- 
Horakhty and Thoth (north and south ends, respectively). Stelae are also found carved on 
the terrace's north and south ends. One large stela records the marriage of Ramesses II to 
a Hittite princess in the thirty-fourth year of his reign. 

The facade behind the statues has the shape of a pylon, topped by a cavetto cornice 
upon which stand a row of baboons, facing east, with their arms raised in adoration of the 
rising sun. Over the entrance into the temple is a statue of the sun god Re-Horakhty, a 
falcon-headed god wearing the solar disk crown. A relief depicts the king offering an 
image of the goddess of truth (Ma'at) to this god. This sculptural group is a cryptographic 
writing of the prenomen of Ramesses II, "Userma'atre" (the falcon-headed god Re has by 
his right leg the hieroglyph showing the head and neck of an animal which is read as 
user, while the goddess by his left leg is Ma'at). 

The sides of the terrace along the passage into the temple are carved with the 
cartouches of the king and with rows of Asiatic and Nubian captives (north and south 
sides, respectively). The side panels on the innermost thrones are carved with a 
traditional scene representing the union of Upper and Lower Egypt, depicting two Nile 
gods binding together the plant emblems of Upper and Lower Egypt (the lotus and the 

The main hypostyle hall of this temple has two rows of four pillars topped by Hathor 
heads and decorated with figures of the king and queen giving offerings to various 
deities. Osiride figures of the king, 10m in height, are carved against each pillar. Between 
the third and fourth Osiride figures on the south is the text of a decree which records the 
building of the Northern Residence (Pi-Ramesses) in the thirty-fourth year of Ramesses 
II's reign, as well as his marriage to a Hittite princess. The ceiling of the hall is decorated 
with flying vultures and royal cartouches. 

The reliefs along the north and south walls show various military campaigns 
conducted by Ramesses II in Syria, Libya and Nubia. The north wall shows Ramesses II 
and his troops at the Battle of Qadesh in 1285 BC, a battle fought against the Hittites in 
Syria. The Egyptians appear as victors in these scenes, but other inscriptional sources 
demonstrate that they did not in fact win the battle. Ramesses II is depicted giving 
offerings to the gods at the top of the opposite wall, while the lower register shows him 
storming a Syrian fortress in his chariot, accompanied by some of his sons. He also 
single-handedly tramples and kills Libyan enemies and herds Nubian captives to Egypt. 

The entrance and back walls depict the king killing enemies of Egypt and presenting 
them to various deities, including himself. On the entrance walls, he is accompanied by 
his ka and some of the royal children. Below this scene, on the north side, is a graffito 
noting that this relief (along with perhaps all the others) was carved by Piay, son of 
Khanefer, the sculptor of Ramesses-Mery-Amen. Above the door on the back wall, the 
king is shown either running toward various deities with different ritual objects in his 
hands or standing before the gods with offerings. The reliefs in the eight side rooms off 
the main hall include scenes of Ramesses II either making offerings or worshipping gods. 

The entrance to the second hypostyle hall was originally flanked by two hawk-headed 
sphinxes, which are now in the British Museum. The scenes on the walls and pillars of 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 96 

this room, and in the vestibule leading into the sanctuary, are purely religious in 
character. The deification of Ramesses II during his lifetime is once again apparent in the 
reliefs of the halls and the sanctuary. The king is shown presenting offerings to himself or 
performing religious rites before a sacred bark representing his deified person. 
Representations of the king as a god were sometimes added to scenes after the initial 
compositions were carved. 

The western wall of the vestibule has three doorways. The southern and northern 
doors lead into two empty and uninscribed rooms. The central door leads into the 
sanctuary, where the rather poorly carved figures of Ptah, Amen, the deified Ramesses II 
and Re-Horakhty were placed against the back wall of the sanctuary. The seated quartet 
were illuminated twice a year by the rays of the rising sun. 

On either side of the doorway a figure of the king with arm extended is accompanied 
by an inscription exhorting the priests: "Enter into the sanctuary thrice purified!" The 
scenes on the walls show Ramesses worshipping deities. An uninscribed, broken altar 
stands in the middle of the room in front of the statues. 

The Small Temple 

Access to the temple of Hathor and Nefertari is gained through a door on the northern 
side of the enclosure wall surrounding the Great Temple. The plan of this temple mirrors 
that of the larger temple to its south, but on a smaller scale. The pylon-shaped facade of 
this temple (about 28m long) was also originally topped by a cavetto cornice. On each 
side of the entrance are three niches. A standing statue of Nefertari (over 10m high) is 
between two statues of Ramesses II, each of them placed in niches separated by 
projecting buttresses. The statues are surrounded by small figures of the royal children. 

The roof of the hypostyle hall is supported by six pillars, decorated with various royal 
and divine figures. The pillars are topped with heads of Hathor. On the entrance walls, 
the king slaughters his enemies before Amen and Horus, with Nefertari looking on. The 
walls on the north, south and west of the hypostyle hall have reliefs with ritual and 
offering scenes involving the king and queen and various deities. 

Three doorways on the west end of this hall lead into the vestibule. The walls in this 
room are carved with reliefs depicting the royal couple with the gods. Doorways in the 
north and south walls lead into two uninscribed chambers. Above the doors are scenes of 
Nefertari and Ramesses making an offering to the Hathor cow, which stands on a bark in 
the marshes. 

The doorway into the sanctuary is in the middle of the vestibule's west wall. On the 
back wall of this innermost room is carved the frontal figure of the Hathor cow emerging 
from the papyrus marshes. The figure of Ramesses II stands protected under its head. 
Two Hathor pillars stand at either side of this statue group. The walls around this focal 
point are adorned with the usual scenes of the king and queen accompanied by various 
deities, including Ramesses II giving offerings to the deified Ramesses II and Nefertari. 

Entries A-Z 97 

See also 

Belzoni, Giovanni Baptista; cult temples of the New Kingdom; Late and Ptolemaic 
periods, overview; Lepsius, Carl Richard; Mariette, Francois Auguste Ferdinand; New 
Kingdom, overview 

Further reading 

El-Achirie, H., and J.Jacquet, with F.Hebert and B.Maurice. 1984. Le grand temple d'Abou-Simbel 

I, 1: Architecture. Cairo. 
Desroches-Noblecourt, C, and C.Kuentz. 1968. La petit temple d'Abou-Simbel: Nofretari pour qui 

se /eve le dieu-soleil, 1 and 2. Cairo. 
MacQuitty, W. 1965. Abu Simbel. London. 
Otto, E. 1972. Abu Simbel. LA 1:25-7. 
Save-Soderbergh, T. 1987. Temples and Tombs of Ancient Nubia. London. 



Abusir is a village west of the Nile (29°53' N, 31°13' E), about 17.5km south of the 
pyramids of Giza. The name of the village is the Arabic rendering of the ancient Egyptian 
Per-Wesir, which means "House of Osiris." For the greater part of the 5th Dynasty 
royalty and many high officials were buried in pyramids and mastaba tombs in its 
necropolis on the edge of the desert. In 1838 J.S.Perring cleared the entrances to the 
pyramids of Sahure, Neferirkare and Nyuserre, the second, third and sixth kings of the 
dynasty, and surveyed them. Richard Lepsius explored the necropolis in 1843 and 
numbered the three pyramids XVIII, XXI and XX. 

In 1902-8 Ludwig Borchardt, working for the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft, 
resurveyed the same pyramids and also excavated their adjoining temples and causeways 
with spectacular results, especially in the complex of Sahure. In every building except the 
pyramid itself, the inner stone walls had been furnished with painted reliefs depicting the 
king's activities and ritual acts, some undoubtedly traditional. Borchardt estimated that 
the reliefs in the mortuary temple of Sahure alone had occupied a total of 10,000m 
square, of which no more than 150m square had been preserved, mostly in fragments. A 
notable survival was a representation of the king hunting, with bow and arrow, antelopes, 
gazelles and other animals. Perhaps the best known scenes, however, were two located on 
either side of a doorway in the western corridor. In one the king was witnessing the 
departure of twelve seafaring ships, probably to a Syrian port, and in the other he and his 
retinue were present when the ships docked, bearing not only their cargo but also some 
Asiatic passengers. Besides the wall reliefs, the most conspicuous features in the temple 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 98 

were the polished black basalt floor of the open court and the monolithic granite columns, 
some representing single palm trees with their leaves tied vertically upward, and others a 
cluster of papyrus stems bound together. 

Much attention had been paid to drainage at the temple. Rainwater on the roof was 
conducted to the outside through spouts carved with lion heads. On the floor were 
channels for rainwater cut in the paving which led to holes in the walls. Water which had 
become ritually unclean ran through 300m of copper pipes to an outlet at the lower end of 
the causeway. 

Since 1976 an expedition of the Institute of Egyptology, Prague University, under the 
direction of Miroslav Verner, has excavated an area at Abusir south of the causeway of 
the pyramid of Nyuserre. They have uncovered several mastabas of the late 5th Dynasty, 
mostly tombs of members of the royal family, and two pyramids — one belonging to a 
queen named Khentkaues (apparently Nyuserre's mother), and the other to the fourth 
king of the 5th Dynasty, Reneferef (or Neferefre). Another pyramid, which, if it had been 
finished, would have been the largest at Abusir, was also investigated by the expedition. 
This pyramid is situated north of the pyramid of Sahure, and it may have been intended 
for Shepseskare, Reneferef's successor. Reneferef's pyramid, just southwest of the 
pyramid of Neferirkare, was also unfinished. It was left in a truncated form, like a square 
mastaba, no doubt because of the king's premature death. Among the main features of 
Reneferef's mortuary temple were a hypostyle hall, with wooden lotus-cluster columns 
mounted on limestone bases, and two wooden boats, one more than 30m long, in place of 
the usual statue niches. A number of broken stone figures, six with heads representing the 
king, were found in rooms near the hypostyle hall. 

One of the best known monuments of Abusir is the mastaba of the vizier Ptahshepses, 
a son-in-law of Nyuserre, and his wife, close to the northeastern corner of the pyramid of 
Nyuserre. First excavated in 1893 by Morgan, Director of the Egyptian Antiquities 
Service, it was re-excavated and restored over many years by Z.Zaba of Prague 
University, who was assisted by members of the Antiquities Service. Next to the vizier's 
tomb are the mastaba of his children and a few other tombs dating to later in the dynasty. 
A graffito by two scribes, who recorded their visit here in the fiftieth year of the reign of 
Ramesses II, shows that, like the Step Pyramid of Zoser, Ptahshepses's mastaba was 
already a tourist attraction in antiquity. 

Six sun temples of kings of the 5th Dynasty are known by name from texts, but only 
those of Weserkaf and Nyuserre have been found. Both were built at Abu Gurab, a short 
distance north of the pyramid of Sahure. 

At Abusir, alone among the sites of pyramids, written documents have been found 
which inform about the duties performed by the priesthoods of the pyramids in the 
necropolis. Known as the Abusir Papyri, the published documents refer to the priests of 
the pyramid of Neferirkare. They show that records of attendance were kept, and that 
temple furniture and property were checked by the priests in the course of their tours of 
duty. Most of these fragmentary papyri were found in the temple of Neferirkare by illicit 
diggers in 1893. More papyri, as yet unpublished, have since been found by the Prague 
University expedition in the pyramid complexes of Queen Khentkaues and Reneferef. 

Entries A-Z 99 

See also 

Abu Gurab; Memphite private tombs of the Old Kingdom; Old Kingdom, overview; 
Saqqara, pyramids of the 3rd Dynasty; Saqqara, pyramids of the 5th and 6th Dynasties 

Further reading 

Edwards, I.E.S. 1993. The Pyramids of Egypt, 153-72. Harmondsworth. 

Maragioglio, V., and C.Rinaldi. 1977. L 'Architettura delle Piramidi Menfite 8: 8-57. Rapallo. 

Porter, B., and R.L.B.Moss, revised by J.Malek. 1974. Topographical Bibliography of Ancient 

Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings 3: Memphis, 314-50. Oxford. 
Verner, M. 1994. Forgotten Pharaohs, Lost Pyramids. Abusir. Prague. 


Abusir el-Meleq 

Near the village of Abusir el-Meleq a late Predynastic cemetery (Nagada IId2-IIIb, circa 
3250-3050 BC) was discovered on the northeast edge of Gebel Abusir, a desert ridge 
several kilometers in length running in a northeast-southwest direction along the west 
bank of the Nile near the entrance to the Fayum (29°15' N, 31°05' E). This cemetery, 
along with the nearby cemeteries of Gerza and Haraga (somewhat earlier in date), and 
that of Kafr Tarkhan (with somewhat later burials), exemplify the developed and late 
stages of the Nagada culture in northern Upper Egypt. 

The first Predynastic graves were discovered at Abusir el-Meleq by Otto Rubensohn 
in his 1902-4 expedition, which also revealed priests' graves of the Late period and 
scattered burials from the 18th Dynasty. Under the auspices of the German Orient- 
Gesellschaft, Georg Moller excavated the Predynastic cemetery in 1905-6, also exposing 
several burials of the Hyksos period (15th-16th Dynasties). Ruins of a temple built by 
Nectanebo (30th Dynasty) were discovered near the village mosque, and it was presumed 
that this area might represent the location of the Lower Egyptian sanctuary of Osiris. 

The late Predynastic cemetery, divided into two sections by a strip of exposed 
bedrock, covered an area nearly 4km in length, varying from 100m to 400m in width. In 
the larger section to the north some 700 burials were found; another 150 were in the 
southern section. The human remains had been placed in graves generally 0.80-1. 20m 
deep, either long ovals or — more frequently — rectangular in shape. The rectangular 
graves were usually plastered with mud and fully or partially reinforced with mudbrick. 
Traces of wood and matting were interpreted as remains of wall coverings or possibly 
ceilings. Fifteen graves in the southern section had been constructed with a special 
feature, a grill-like bed of several "beams" of mudbrick, each 0.10-0. 25m high and 0.10- 
0.20m wide, laid at intervals transversely across the floor of the graves. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 100 

With few exceptions, the deceased had been placed in a contracted position on the left 
side, facing west with the head to the south. Clay sarcophagi were found in four graves, 
three of which were child burials. One wooden coffin was found in another grave. Many 
of the graves had been plundered in antiquity. Wavy-handled jars, apparently containers 
for ointments, stood near the head, while other vessels (usually storage jars for food for 
the deceased) had been placed at the feet of the burial. Animal bones indicated frequent 
offerings of meat. More valuable gifts were generally found near the hands or on the 
body. Pottery and stone vessels, as well as large flint knives, had often been rendered 
unserviceable by piercing or breaking, a procedure which has been variously interpreted 
as a ceremonial sacrifice of the artifacts themselves, or possibly as a measure against 
potential grave robbing. 

Reflecting the general characteristics of Upper Egypt, the pottery from the graves 
dates to the later Predynastic period (Nagada IId2- Hid). Red Polished class (P-), Rough 
class (R-) and Late class (L-) are well represented. The relative abundance of black- 
polished pottery is noteworthy, while Black-topped Red class (B-) is infrequent. Among 
the Decorated class (D-) are vessels painted with a net pattern, with wavy handles — thus 
overlapping with the Wavy-handled class (W-) — as well as vessels painted in imitation of 
stone. Other Decorated class pots have motifs of ships, animals and landscapes. 
Occasionally potmarks are found. Certain vessel forms, including lug-handled bottles 
painted with vertical stripes and a bowl with knob decorations, suggest the influence of 
the Early Bronze Age in Palestine. 

Some ninety-five relatively small stone vessels were recovered from the graves. 
Characteristic are jars with pierced lug handles and bowls made of colorful rock of 
volcanic origin. Two theriomorphic vessels and one tripartite vase are unusual. Vessels of 
alabaster appear to have been more common here than in Upper Egypt. 

Other small vessels were made of ivory, shell, horn, faience and copper. There were 
also copper chisels or adzes, a fragment of a dagger, a few pins and beads, as well as 
bracelets. One bracelet was cast with a snake in high relief; another had crocodiles. 
Artifacts in bone and ivory, some of which are decorated, include spoons, pins, cosmetic 
sticks and combs, one of which had a handle in the form of a bird. Most of the palettes, in 
slate and other stones, are decorated. Some are shaped like animals or have birds' heads 
on one end, but simple geometric forms are unusual. 

Flint blades, 3-10cm long, were often found in the graves, frequently in pairs. Smaller 
obsidian blades were also relatively common, and a total of fifteen large, ripple-flaked 
flint knives were recovered, all broken in the same manner. One grave contained three 
transverse "arrowheads" of flint. 

Six pear-shaped stone maceheads were recorded, one with a bull's head in relief. 
Other small finds include various articles of jewelry: bracelets or armbands of shell, 
ivory, leather and horn, and many beads of stone, copper, shell and faience. A few small 
carved animal figurines (dogs, lions and a hippopotamus) were also excavated. An ivory 
cylinder seal carved with three rows of animals (dogs, a crocodile, antelopes, jackals, a 
scorpion, snake and vultures) was found in Grave 1035. Of local manufacture, this 
cylinder seal is a type of artifact that originated in Mesopotamia, as did its orientalizing 

When we consider the northern location of the Abusir el-Meleq cemetery, not only are 
the occurrences of the cylinder seal and the several vessels of Palestinian influence 

Entries A-Z 101 

significant, but also two types of skeletons have been distinguished in the anthropological 
study. An "Upper Egyptian" type occurs, but there is also a more robust "Lower 
Egyptian" type, which may represent the descendants of the Predynastic Ma'adi culture 
of Lower Egypt. In the fourth millennium BC, Abusir el-Meleq must have played some 
role in the colonization of Lower Egypt by peoples of the Upper Egyptian Nagada 
culture, which resulted in the subsequent disappearance of the Lower Egyptian Ma'adi 
culture. The site may have been an outlying post regulating the routes of communication 
to trade colonies in the Delta, such as Buto and Minshat Abu Omar. 

Figure 4 Design on carved ivory seal, 
Abusir el-Meleq, Grave 1035 

See also 

Buto (Tell el-Fara'in); Fayum, Neolithic and Predynastic sites; Hyksos; Kafr Tarkhan 
(Kafr Ammar); Ma'adi and the Wadi Digla; Minshat Abu Omar; Nagada (Naqada); 
pottery, prehistoric; Predynastic period, overview 

Further reading 

Kaiser, W. 1990. Zur Entstehung des gesamtagyptischen Staates. MDAIK 46: 287-99. 
Moller, G., and A.Scharff. 1926. Die Archaeologischen Ergebnisse des Vorgeschichtlichen 

Grdberfeldes von Abusir el-Meleq. Leipzig. 
Miiller, F.W.K. 1915. Das Vorgeschichtiiche Grdberfeld von Abusir el-Meleq, Band II. Die 

Anthropologischen Ergebnisse. Leipzig. 


Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 102 

Abydos, Early Dynastic funerary 

The rulers of the 1st Dynasty and the last two of the 2nd Dynasty were buried at Abydos 
(26°11' N, 31°55' E). Some scholars have argued that the true tombs were at Saqqara, and 
the Abydos ones were cenotaphs or dummy burials, but this is unlikely: the enclosures 
described here do not occur at Saqqara. Clustered together far back from the inhabited 
floodplain, the large subterranean tombs of Abydos had modest superstructures; 1.96km 
due north were the public manifestations of the royal funerary cult, large mudbrick 
enclosures easily visible to the local population. 

Corresponding to the burials, ten enclosures must have been built; eight have been 
located (one in 1997 by a ground-penetrating radar survey). The specific owners of some 
are unknown, but others are identified by inscriptions (Djer, Djet and the queen-mother 
Merneith of the 1st Dynasty; Peribsen and Khasekhemwy of the 2nd Dynasty). 
Eventually, the enclosures formed three irregular rows. The earliest may have clustered 
around that of Aha s( no t yet identified), the founder of the dynasty. Later enclosures lay 
northwest, while the last two (2nd Dynasty) were southwest of the earliest cluster. 

The features of a generic enclosure can only be tentatively reconstructed, since data on 
individual ones are very incomplete. The area each occupied varied. Some, on average, 
covered 2560m 2 , others 5100m 2 . At the extremes, one was only 1740m 2 , while 
Khasekhemwy's was 10,395m 2 . Most were rectangular in plan, usually with the average 
ratio of 1:1.8; one was 1:4, another 1:2.4. Three (and presumably all 1st Dynasty 
enclosures, like the royal tombs) were surrounded by subsidiary graves for attendants 
dispatched at the time of the royal funeral. Aha subsidiary graves were perhaps adjacent 
to his enclosure, rather than surrounding, and 2nd Dynasty enclosures had none. 

Externally, the enclosures were impressive. As much as 11m high, their walls were 
plastered and whitewashed. A low bench ran around the footings of 1st Dynasty walls, 
while Khasekhemwy's enclosure had a unique perimeter wall, lower than the main one. 

The eastern (actually northeastern) aspect of each enclosure was especially significant, 
perhaps because it faced the rising sun, already a symbol of rebirth after death, as later. 
On the northeast face, the simple niching typical of the enclosures was regularly 
interspersed with deeper, more complex niches, and the entrance was near the east corner. 
Highest ranking subsidiary graves clustered near this entrance. In 1st Dynasty enclosures 
the entrance was architecturally elaborate, and in 2nd Dynasty ones it provided access to 
a substantial chapel within the enclosure. 

Internally, these chapels display complex ritual paths, and presumably housed the 
deceased king's statue. Offerings were made there, as evidenced by the masses of 
discarded offering pottery and broken jar sealings (many inscribed). However, no cult 
seems to have continued beyond a successor's reign, and ritual activity might have been 

Entries A-Z 103 

Each enclosure's northwest wall also had an entrance, near the north corner. Simple in 
plan, these were soon bricked up after each 1st Dynasty enclosure was completed. 
Second Dynasty entrances were larger, more complex architecturally and apparently kept 
open. This development may relate to a substantial mound-like feature, traces of which 
occurred in the west quadrant of Khasekhemwy's enclosure, relatively close to the 
northwest wall entrance. Otherwise, virtually nothing is known about structures, other 
than chapels, within each enclosure. 

Nested among the enclosures were twelve large boat graves, their total number 
confirmed by investigations in 1997. Arranged in a row, each grave parallel to the others, 
they average 27m in length. Each consists of a shallow trench cut in the desert surface, in 
which a shallow wooden hull was placed and surrounded by a mudbrick casing, rising 
circa 50cm above the desert surface. Plastered and whitewashed, the resulting 
superstructures, schematically shaped as boats with prominent "prows" and "sterns," 
must have resembled a moored fleet, and were even supplied with rough stone "anchors." 
To which of the four adjacent enclosures these boat graves belonged is uncertain. 
Although single boat graves are occasionally found with contemporary elite, non-royal 
tombs, the Abydos ones are unique in number, proximity, size and, to some extent, form. 
Presumably, each boat was believed to be used by the deceased king when he traversed 
the sky and the netherworld, as described in later funerary texts (Pyramid Texts). 

The Abydos royal tombs are adjacent to those of pre-lst Dynasty rulers who may also 
have had enclosures, near the later ones. Like the tombs, these enclosures were likely 
quite small, and recognizable traces have not yet been found. An enclosure at 
Hierakonpolis, dating to Khasekhemwy's reign, is about half the size of this king's 
enclosure at Abydos. Like the latter, it had an outer perimeter wall and massive main 
walls, but it is square (ratio 1:1.20), not rectangular in plan, has only one entrance 
(northeast wall, near the east corner), and a centrally, rather than peripherally, located 
chapel. Its purpose is unknown. Perhaps Khasekhemwy originally planned to be buried at 
Hierakonpolis, although no tomb for him is known there. 

Within the early town at Hierakonpolis were two large, mudbrick enclosures very 
reminiscent of the Abydos ones in plan, but housing temples rather than royal funerary 
chapels. However, one was at least built (or rebuilt?) in part in the Old Kingdom, and the 
other, of which only the gateway (northwest wall) survives, has also been identified as a 

Prior to Peribsen, 2nd Dynasty kings were buried at Saqqara. Their supposed tombs 
differ in plan from those of Peribsen and Khasekhemwy at Abydos, and no associated 
enclosures have been demonstrated. However, the first version of Zoser's Step Pyramid 
complex at Saqqara seems modelled on Khasekhemwy's Abydos enclosure (including the 
possible mound), although the Saqqara complex is about three times the size and in stone. 
This development, like the boat graves (also associated with later pyramids), indicates 
that the Abydos enclosures were the ultimate origin of the pyramid's complex. 

See also 

Abydos, Umm el-Qa'ab; funerary texts; Hierakonpolis; Saqqara, North, Early Dynastic 
tombs; Saqqara, pyramids of the 3rd Dynasty 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 104 

Further reading 

Dreyer, G. 1991. Zur Rekonstruktion der Oberbauten der Konigsgraber der 1. Dynastie in Abydos. 

MDAIK 47:43-7. 
Kemp, B. 1967. The Egyptian 1st Dynasty royal cemetery. Antiquity 41:22-32. 
O'Connor, D. 1989. New funerary enclosures (Talbezirke) of the Early Dynastic Period at Abydos. 

JARCE 26:51-86. 

1991. Boat graves and pyramid origins. Expedition 33:5-17. 

1992. The status of early Egyptian temples: an alternate theory. In The Followers ofHorus: 

Studies Dedicated to Michael Allen Hoffman, R.Friedman and B.Adams, eds, 83-98. Oxford. 


Abydos, Middle Kingdom cemetery 

The Northern Cemetery was the principal burial ground for non-royal individuals at 
Abydos during the Middle Kingdom, and continued in use through the Graeco-Roman 
period. Its exact limits are as yet unknown, but it covers a minimum of 50ha. During the 
Middle Kingdom, this area served local elites, as well as members of the middle and 
lower classes. Royal activity in the Abydene necropolis shifted to South Abydos during 
this period. Based on the evidence of ceramic assemblages in the cemetery, the area 
around the Early Dynastic royal funerary enclosures was preserved as an exclusive sacred 
space until the 11th Dynasty, a period of some 700 years. Early in the Middle Kingdom, 
the central government appears to have officially granted private access to this previously 
restricted burial ground: the orthography of a 13th Dynasty royal stela of Neferhotep I 
recording such an action indicates that it might actually be a copy of an earlier Middle 
Kingdom royal decree. 

Excavators and opportunists have been working in the Northern Cemetery for almost 
two centuries, beginning with the collecting activities of the entrepreneurs d'Athanasi and 
Anastasi and the wide ranging excavations of Auguste Mariette in 1858. These early 
explorations shared a focus on surface remains and museum-worthy objects, unearthing a 
substantial number of Middle Kingdom funerary and votive stelae. An era of more 
systematic exploration began with the work of Flinders Petrie in 1899, followed by 
several excavators working for various institutions, most notably Thomas Peet and John 
Garstang. This period of research ended with the work of Henri Frankfort in 1925-6. 
Although much information was gathered on non-royal burial practices during the Middle 
Kingdom, no detailed comprehensive map was developed, and the excavators rarely 
published the entirety of their findings. The goal of the multidisciplinary Pennsylvania- 
Yale Expedition, which has excavated in the Northern Cemetery area since 1966, has 
been to build a comprehensive map and provide as complete a record as possible of 
mortuary remains at the site, including for the first time information on the health status 
of individuals buried in the cemetery. 

Entries A-Z 105 

The earliest Middle Kingdom graves occurred in the northeastern part of the cemetery, 
perhaps because of its proximity to the town's Osiris temple. The choice of space might 
also reflect a more pragmatic concern with favorable subsurface conditions, characterized 
in this area by an extremely compact sand and gravel matrix; this type of matrix 
permitted the excavation of deep and regular burial shafts. As this portion of the cemetery 
filled up, burials spread in a southwesterly direction around the 2nd Dynasty funerary 
enclosure of Khasekhemwy toward the cliffs, but during the Middle Kingdom never 
encroached on the wadi separating the Northern Cemetery from the Middle Cemetery, 
which was preserved as a processional way out to Umm el-Qa'ab. It is unclear whether or 
not there were rock-cut tombs in the cliffs at Abydos, the usual venue for provincial elite 
graves, making it possible that a more differentiated population than usual shared this low 
desert cemetery. 

There were two basic grave types in the Northern Cemetery during the Middle 
Kingdom, reflecting the socioeconomic status of the deceased and his or her family: shaft 
graves and surface graves. Shaft graves occurred most often at Abydos in pairs, although 
excavators have documented rows of eight or more. These shafts were oriented to river 
north, and were typically associated with some form of mudbrick surface architecture 
serving as a funerary chapel, often bearing a limestone stela inscribed with standard 
offering formulae and the name and title of the deceased. The size and elaboration of 
these chapels ranged from large mudbrick mastabas with interior chambers down to very 
small vaulted structures less than 30cm in height. The shafts themselves were of highly 
variable depth, ranging from 1 to 10m. Burial chambers opened from either the northern 
or southern ends of the shaft; often several chambers were present at different depths, 
each typically containing one individual in a simple wooden coffin. Grave goods could 
include pottery, cosmetic items and jewelry in a variety of materials ranging from faience 
to semiprecious stones to gold. Shaft graves with multiple chambers were most likely 
family tombs used over time. Frequently, more than one chapel was constructed on the 
surface to serve the different occupants of the grave. 

Burials were also deposited in surface graves: shallow pits dug into the desert surface, 
either with or without a wooden coffin. Surface graves are documented throughout the 
cemetery, dispersed among the shaft graves, and like them are oriented to river north. 
Most of these graves do not seem to possess any surface architecture, but some appear to 
be associated with very small chapels, or surface scatters of offering pottery which 
suggest the idea if not the reality of a "chapel." A range of grave goods and raw materials 
similar to those found in shaft chambers also occurred in surface graves; in fact, some of 
the wealthiest graves in terms of raw materials recorded by Petrie were surface graves. 

The Northern Cemetery is one of the largest known cemeteries from the Middle 
Kingdom that provides data on the mortuary practices of non-elites. These data include 
evidence for a middle class during this period, which may not have been entirely 
dependent upon the government for the accumulation of wealth, as is illustrated by the 
modest shaft graves and stelae of individuals bearing no bureaucratic titles. The cemetery 
remains document shared mortuary beliefs and shared use of a mortuary landscape by 
elites and non-elites, and in the broader context of Abydos as a whole, by royalty as well. 
Additionally, current archaeological research in the Northern Cemetery focuses on the 
physical anthropology of the skeletal remains, allowing scholars to suggest links between 
the health status and socioeconomic level of individuals buried here, and contributing to 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 106 

our knowledge of disease in ancient Egypt. Work in the settlement area has suggested a 
partial explanation for the under-representation of infants and small children in the 
cemetery context in the form of sub-floor burials in the settlement itself. Simultaneously, 
the Northern Cemetery also illustrates one of the most formidable challenges facing 
archaeologists in Egypt: coping with the effects of long term plundering and with the 
fragmentary records of earlier work at the site to produce a coherent picture of ancient 

See also 

Egyptians, physical anthropology of; Middle Kingdom, overview 

Further reading 

Buikstra, J., B.Baker and D.Cook. 1993. What diseases plagued ancient Egyptians? A century of 

controversy considered. In Biological Anthropology and the Study of Ancient Egypt, V.Davies, 

ed. London. 
O'Connor, D. 1985. The cenotaphs of the Middle Kingdom at Abydos. In Melanges Gamal Eddin 

Mokhtar, P.Posener-Krieger, ed., 162-77. Cairo. 
Richards, J. 1989. Understanding the mortuary remains at Abydos. NARCE 142:5-8. 
Simpson, W.K. 1974. The Terrace of the Great God at Abydos: The Offering Chapels of Dynasties 

12 and 13 (Publications of the Pennsylvania-Yale Expedition to Egypt, 5). New Haven, CT and 



Abydos, North 

The ancient settlement at Abydos (Kom es-Sultan) is adjacent to the modern village of 
Beni Mansur on the west bank of the Nile in Sohag governorate, Upper Egypt (26°11' N, 
31°55' E). Often identified with the Osiris-Khenty-amentiu Temple enclosure, the site is 
presently defined by a series of large mudbrick enclosure walls of various dates, as well 
as by a limestone pylon foundation and a mass of limestone debris, which marks the site 
of a large stone temple dated by Flinders Petrie to the 30th Dynasty. Auguste Mariette 
excavated a large area of late houses in the western corner of the site, which produced a 
great number of demotic inscriptions (on ostraca). Surface features visible in 1899 were 
mapped by John Garstang. In 1902-3, Petrie excavated a large area of the cultic zone of 
the site, revealing a series of superimposed cult structures ranging in date from the late 
Old Kingdom through the Late period. No further excavation took place until test 
excavations were conducted in 1979 by David O'Connor, co-director (with William 
Kelly Simpson) of the Pennsylvania-Yale Expedition. Based on the results of this work, a 

Entries A-Z 107 

major new research program was initiated as the Abydos Settlement Site Project of the 
Pennsylvania-Yale Expedition in 1991, under the field direction of Matthew Adams. 

The site is located at the transition from the alluvium to the low desert, at the mouth of 
the desert wadi which extends to the southwest past the Early Dynastic royal tombs at 
Umm el-Qa'ab. The town site is bounded on the southwest by the slope to the low desert 
in which is situated Abydos's North Cemetery. On the north and east, the site most likely 
extends under the modern village of Beni Mansur into the present alluvium. To the 
southeast the site may have been bordered, at least in later antiquity, by a substantial lake 
or harbor, since a large depression is shown on early maps of the site. Gaston Maspero 
noted the presence of stone masonry, which he interpreted to be the remains of a quay, 
although this area is now completely covered by village houses. 

The site was originally a classic "tell," a mound built up of superimposed layers of 
construction and occupation debris, which may have been as much as 12m or more in 
height. Except in the western corner of the site, where large late mudbrick walls protected 
the underlying deposits (Kom es-Sultan proper), much of the component material of the 
tell has been removed by digging for organic material (sebbakh) used by the farmers for 

Figure 5 Abydos North 

Southeast of Petrie's excavations, almost all deposits post-dating the late third 
millennium BC appear to have been destroyed, and Old Kingdom and First Intermediate 
Period levels lay immediately under the modern surface. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 108 

Due to the destruction of later strata, the best evidence at present for the nature of the 
site in ancient times comes from the later third millennium BC. At this time, the cultic 
core of the site consisted of the Temple of Khenty-amentiu (only later Osiris-Khenty- 
amentiu), with a number of subsidiary chapels, all situated within a series of enclosure 
walls. Around these to the west and south were shifting zones of houses, workshops and 
some open areas. Whether the non-cultic components of the town in this period were 
inside the enclosure wall system is as yet unclear. 

Petrie's excavations concentrated primarily on the cultic zone of the site and have 
been reanalyzed by Barry Kemp. The complex sequence of superimposed cult structures 
can be divided into three main building levels: an earlier one of the Old Kingdom, one of 
the New Kingdom, and the latest one of the Late period. Below the Old Kingdom level, 
Petrie was able to define only traces of earlier mudbrick structures, which, as published, 
do not form a comprehensible plan. None of the structures in this area is likely to 
represent the actual temple of Osiris-Khenty-amentiu. Where evidence is preserved, they 
appear to have been royal "ka" chapels, subsidiary buildings common at major temple 
sites, as argued by O'Connor and Edward Brovarski, contra Kemp. Given the importance 
of the Osiris cult, especially from the Middle Kingdom onward, a major temple building 
should be expected in the vicinity, the latest incarnation of which is likely to be seen in 
the nearby stone remains. The main temple in earlier periods may have been located in 
the same approximate area. 

Petrie's excavations also revealed a substantial zone of houses to the west and 
southwest of the cult buildings, which spanned the period from late Predynastic times 
(Nagada III) to at least the 2nd Dynasty. Occupation here probably continued much later, 
but the evidence has been destroyed by sebbakh digging. During a temporary phase of 
abandonment of this part of the site, though still in the Early Dynastic period, a number 
of simple pit graves and brick-lined chamber tombs were dug into the occupational 
debris; these were Petrie's Cemetery M. These were covered by renewed Early Dynastic 

A major portion of the work of the Abydos Settlement Site Project in 1991 focused on 
the largely unexplored area to the southeast of Petrie's excavations and the Late period 
temple remains. Excavation revealed substantial zones of residential and industrial 
activity, dating to the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period. The residential area 
consisted of a number of mudbrick houses, courtyards and a narrow street, situated 
adjacent to a large building. The plans of three houses are relatively complete, consisting 
of between seven and ten mostly small rooms. All the houses had long histories of use 
and were subject to many minor and some major modifications over time, illustrating 
functional changes which likely relate in part to the evolving composition and needs of 
the family groups which occupied them. The function of the large building against which 
some of the houses were built is as yet unclear, but it may have been a large house similar 
to the Lahun "mansions," a notion supported by the entirely domestic character of the 
material excavated from within it. 

Much evidence was recovered relating to the organization of life in this ancient 
"neighborhood." All the houses had evidence of bread baking and cooking, and the 
faunal and botanical remains reveal the patterns of food consumption. The residents 
appear to have been farmers, while at the same time they seem to have obtained meat 
through some sort of system of redistribution, perhaps through the local temple or a town 

Entries A-Z 109 

market. Most ceramics from this portion of the site were locally made, but in the Old 
Kingdom imports were common from as far away as Memphis, while in the First 
Intermediate Period such long-distance imports were absent. At the same time, evidence 
suggests that Abydos's residents had access in both periods to other exchange networks, 
such as those which brought to the site exotic raw materials such as hematite and 
quartzite; the latter was commonly used for household querns and other grinding stones. 
The most common tools were made of chipped stone and bone, which appear to have 
been locally produced. These patterns suggest that, although Abydos was not unaffected 
by the political and other changes which characterized the end of the Old Kingdom and 
First Intermediate Period, the basic parameters of life in the town were locally and 
regionally oriented, a pattern which existed ontinuously through both periods. 

The nearby industrial area was for faience production. A number of pit kilns were 
found, which were used, reused and renewed over a long period. Evidence was found for 
the manufacture of beads and amulets, probably for local funerary use. This is the oldest 
and most complete faience workshop yet found in Egypt. There is at present little 
evidence for any institutional sponsorship, and this site may represent an independent 
group of craftsmen servicing the needs of the local population. 

Textual evidence reveals the presence at Abydos, in the Old Kingdom and First 
Intermediate Period, of high officials such as the "Overseer of Upper Egypt" and 
illustrates the connections between the royal court and local Abydos elites. This suggests 
the political importance of Abydos in these periods. However, the vast majority of the 
residents of Abydos would have been non-elite persons, who would have been connected 
with each other and with local elites and institutions through complex social, economic 
and political ties. The aim of the Abydos Settlement Site Project is to examine the spatial 
organization and the full range of activities represented at the site, in order to build a 
comprehensive picture of the structure of life in the ancient community and its context in 
the Nile Valley. 

See also 

faience technology and production; Lahun, town 

Further reading 

Adams, M.D. 1992. Community and societal organization in early historic Egypt: introductory 
report on 1991-92 fieldwork conducted at the Abydos Settlement Site. NARCE 158/159:1-10. 

Brovarski, E. 1994. Abydos in the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period II. In For His Ka: 
Essays Offered in Memory of Klaus Baer, D.P.Silverman, ed., 15-44. Chicago. 

Kemp, B.J. 1968. The Osiris Temple at Abydos. MDAIK 23:138-55. 

. 1975. Abydos. In LA 1:28-41. 

Petrie, W.M.F. 1902. Abydos I, II. London. 


Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 110 

Abydos, North, ka chapels and cenotaphs 

To the east of the vast cemetery fields of North Abydos was a long-lived town and temple 
site, where "ka chapels" and "cenotaphs" are important archaeological features, better 
attested here than at most sites. Ka chapels (f in ~ s fe£) date from the Old and Middle 
Kingdoms and earlier. Originally, the term referred to royal mortuary complexes and elite 
tombs, even to the inaccessible statue chamber (serdab) within the latter. By the 6th 
Dynasty "ka chapels" could be relatively small buildings, separate from the tomb, and 
built in the precincts of provincial (and central?) temples. 

Built for both royalty and different strata of the elite, ka chapels are rarely explicitly 
referred to in the New Kingdom or later, yet the concept remained important: the New 
Kingdom royal mortuary temples at Thebes, as well as other enormous "Mansions of 
Millions of Years" at Abydos and Memphis, are demonstrably "ka temples": in effect, ka 
chapels on a grand scale. 

Ka chapels were like miniaturized temples and tombs. Usually they were serviced by 
ka priests — like tombs — but sometimes by other priests (w3b), as was typical of temples. 
They were endowed with estates to provide offerings for the ka, and support for the 
priests, administrators and personnel of the cult. Although they had both political and 
social meaning, their fundamental purpose was cultic. 

Each individual was born with a ka, a separate entity dwelling in the body and 
providing it life. Each ka was individual, but also, according to Lanny Bell, the 
manifestation of a primeval ancestral ka moving from one generation to another of each 
family line. After death, the ka remained essential for the deceased's eternal well-being. 
It was regularly persuaded by ritual to descend from a celestial realm and re-imbue both 
mummy and the tomb's ka statue with life. Thus, the mortuary cult was enabled to 
effectively provide endless regeneration and nourishment to the dead. 

Ka chapels attached to temples provided deceased individuals with additional 
revitalization and nourishment, via their own cults and also the temple cult. Moreover, 
through his ka statue the deceased could witness and "participate in" special processional 
rituals emanating from the temple and important for regional, cosmological and 
individual revitalization. Sociologically, such chapels enabled the living elite to express 
status by venerating and renovating the ka chapels of distinguished ancestors. 

Royal ka chapels had a special dimension. Each king was vitalized by his own ka, and 
that of the "ka of kingship," providing the superhuman faculties needed by Pharaoh in 
order to rule. Royal kas then had a unique nature, whether celebrated in modest chapels 
such as that of Pepi II at Bubastis, or great temples like that of Ramesses III (6870m 2 ). 

North Abydos provides uniquely rich data on royal ka chapels. The few that have been 
excavated elsewhere were for Teti and Pepi II (Bubastis), Pepi I and perhaps Pepi II 
(Hierakonpolis), Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II (Dendera), and perhaps Amenemhat I (Ezbet 
Rushdi). Ramesses I had a ka chapel at Abydos, but near the vast "ka temple" of his son 
Seti I. 

At Abydos, Flinders Petrie excavated a series of royal ka chapels, each superimposed 
upon the other, and extending from the Old into the New Kingdoms, or later. Some prefer 
to identify these as being — or incorporating — the Osiris temple in a mode unusual for 
most known (and mostly later) temples. However, a largely unexcavated Late period 

Entries A-Z 1 1 1 

temple south of the chapels may well overlie the ruins of the earlier temples, dedicated 
originally to Khentyamenty, a local deity, and subsequently to "Osiris of Abydos," a 
funerary god of national significance. 

On this assumption, four probable royal ka chapels of the Old Kingdom are 
identifiable. Two have tripartite sanctuaries preceded by roofed halls and an open court. 
The circuitous route traversing each is not unusual in pre-New Kingdom cult structures. 
Markedly rectangular in form, the chapels occupied 450m 2 (building L) and 151.50m 2 
(K); their owners are not identified, and a statuette of Khufu found in one may not be 
contemporary. The other two royal chapels were square in outline; the better preserved 
(building H; 384.40m 2 ) had a court with side chambers, and rear chambers (sanctuaries?). 
It was associated with Pepi II, who may have had a similar structure at Hierakonpolis. 

These early chapels were razed and replaced by others in the 12th and 13th Dynasties. 
They were poorly preserved, but included the inscriptionally identified ka chapel of King 
Sankhare Mentuhotep of the 11th Dynasty. Above them in turn, several New Kingdom 
structures, probably ka chapels, were built. Plans were fragmentary, but they seem 
usually to have been square in outline. The earliest, built by Amenhotep I for his own and 
his father Ahmose's ka, had a colonnaded courtyard, a columned hall and a centrally 
placed rear sanctuary (building C; 422.90m 2 ). The latest identifiable ka chapel was for 
Ramesses IV. Later, perhaps when these chapels were in ruins, Amasis of the 26th 
Dynasty built a substantial stone chapel (all earlier ones were mainly of mudbrick), 
perhaps for his ka. Square in outline (1734m 2 ), it was oriented east-west, whereas all 
earlier royal ka chapels at Abydos ran north-south. 

Private, non-royal ka chapels, well documented textually, have rarely been excavated; 
none is identified at Abydos, but one is known at Elephantine and three or possibly four 
at Dakhla Oasis in the late Old Kingdom. The latter are arranged in a row; each has a 
substantial single chamber for a statue at the rear of a hall or court. They are reminiscent 
of the later private "cenotaphs" of North Abydos. 

Of these, some were cleared but not recognized in the nineteenth century, and a 
selection were re-excavated in 1967-9 and 1977, providing detailed plans and elevations. 
Many stelae, recovered in the area during the nineteenth century, evidently came from 
such "cenotaphs," and a few were found in situ in the recent excavations (Pennsylvania- 
Yale-Institute of Fine Arts, New York University Expedition). The excavated 
"cenotaphs" stood on a high desert scarp overlooking the temple; others probably 
extended down to the entrance of a shallow wadi. The latter linked the Osiris temple to 
the Early Dynastic royal tombs 2km back in the desert; the great annual festival of Osiris 
passed along this route in the Middle Kingdom, the period to which the "cenotaphs" 
belonged, as abundant associated ceramics show. 

"Cenotaph" is an inaccurate term invented by Egyptologists. It implies a dummy 
tomb, but in reality the Abydos "cenotaphs" are chapels without tombs, false or 
otherwise. On the stelae, the "cenotaphs" are often called muhut(a standing or erected 
structure), a term applied also to tombs and even pyramids. If any were also called "ka 
chapel" the term should have occurred on the stelae, but does not. Yet in form and 
function the "cenotaphs" or ""^'Sseern identical with "ka chapels." Perhaps proximity to 
a temple made the difference; the Abydos "cenotaphs" lay outside the temple precincts 
while some textually identified "ka chapels" were within them. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 112 

The excavated cenotaphs, a fraction of the original whole, present a complicated yet 
structured picture. All were built of mudbrick. Individually, most had a single chamber, 
which would have contained a statue or statuette and had stelae set on its internal wall 
faces. The chamber was at the rear of a low walled court, or preceded by one. Small ones 
tended to have no court; others, some with a court, were relatively large but consisted of a 
solid cube of mudbrick. Stelae were probably set in their upper external faces. 

The excavated area is dominated by three conspicuously large cenotaphs (averaging 
145m 2 ) set side by side in a row; their owners must have been of high status although 
even larger cenotaphs probably occurred elsewhere in North Abydos. Presumably, they 
originally had a clear view of a processional route located to the east, but gradually other 
relatively large cenotaphs (the largest is 55m 2 ) were scattered across the intervening area 
and smaller ones clustered around them in increasingly dense fashion. Eventually, 
movement among them would have been very difficult, or impossible. 

Large or small, all cenotaphs face east, toward the Osiris temple and the processional 
way. The stelae inscriptions show that those commemorated in the chapels (many of 
whom probably lived, died and were buried elsewhere) expected, via their ka statues, to 
receive food offerings originally proferred to the deity. Inscriptionally attested ka 
chapels, in contrast, sometimes have their own endowments; but perhaps all products 
were first offered to the deity, and then at the ka chapels and cenotaphs. Through their 
statues, the cenotaph "owners" also expected to inhale the revitalizing incense offered the 
god in its temple, and to witness and (notionally, not actually) participate in the great 
annual festival. Indeed, some small cenotaphs had their entrance blocked by a stela 
pierced by a window (one was found in situ in 1969) through which the statuette could 
"see," and a large cenotaph's entrance was blocked off by a mudbrick well into which 
perhaps a similar stela had been inserted. These examples are very reminiscent of Old 
Kingdom tomb serdabs, also called "ka chapels." 

The cenotaphs attest to a striking social diversity amongst those permitted this 
privilege. They vary from very large to tiny examples, the latter supplied nevertheless 
with ostraca-like stelae, limestone flakes painted or inscribed with the owner's name and 
a prayer. The better stelae, although not assignable to any excavated cenotaph, show that 
relatives, subordinate officials and servants associated themselves with the cenotaphs of 
higher ranking persons, and such individuals were probably responsible for the smaller 
chapels which enfold the larger. One of the latter kind belonged specifically to a "butler," 
presumably of the owner of a grander chapel nearby. 

After the Middle Kingdom, the situation in the cenotaph zone is less clear, because of 
extensive disturbance and destruction. It continued, however, to be an important cultic 
area. High-ranking New Kingdom officials had mudbrick structures set up (as 
"cenotaphs"?), and for the first time royalty became directly interested in the area. The 
entrance to the wadi processional route was flanked by two small, beautifully decorated 
chapels of Tuthmose III, currently being excavated by Mary Ann Pouls, while later 
Ramesses II built a large stone temple directly over some of the earlier cenotaphs. It is 
possible that these were three royal *MPH8. 

Entries A-Z 113 

See also 

mortuary beliefs; Old Kingdom, overview 

Further reading 

Kemp, B.J. 1989. Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization, 64-83. London. 

. 1995. How religious were the ancient Egyptians? CAJ 5 (l):25-54. 

O'Connor, D. 1985. The "cenotaphs" of the Middle Kingdom at Abydos. In Melanges Gamal 

Eddin Mokhtar, 161-78. Cairo. 
Seidlmayer, S. 1996. Town and state in the early Old Kingdom. A view from Elephantine. In 

Aspects of Ancient Egypt, J.Spencer, ed., 108-27. London. 
Simpson, W.K. 1974. The Terrace of the Great God at Abydos: the Offering Chapels of Dynasties 

12 and 13. New Haven, CT and Philadelphia. 


Abydos, Osiris temple of Seti I 

Beside the modern village of el-'Araba el-Madfuna (26°11' N, 31°55' E) are the 
impressive remains of a unique Egyptian temple constructed by Seti I (19th Dynasty). 
The temple contains seven sanctuaries set in a row, each dedicated to a different deity, 
the southernmost one honoring Seti I himself. This dedication underscores the building's 
role as a funerary shrine for Seti I. This is confirmed by the name of the temple: "The 
house of millions of years of the King Men-Ma'at-Re [Seti I], who is contented at 
Abydos." Actually buried in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes, Seti I was following a 
longstanding Egyptian royal tradition in building a secondary funerary complex at 
Abydos, the cult center of the Egyptian god Osiris. The temple's raised relief decoration 
carved under Seti I on fine white limestone evokes a traditional, classical style. Many of 
the delicate reliefs also retain their original painted details, forming some of the finest 
bas-reliefs preserved from ancient Egypt. 

The aftermath of the Amarna period, with Seti I restoring the worship of the traditional 
Egyptian gods, may explain the combined dedication of the temple to (from south to 
north) Ptah, Re-Horakhty, Amen-Re, Osiris, Isis and Horus. The unusual L-shaped plan 
of the temple is caused by a southeast wing appended to the main rectilinear temple. This 
wing contains rooms dedicated to Memphite funerary deities, such as Sokar and 
Nefertum, further emphasizing the national and funerary focus of the temple. In addition, 
a selective list of legitimate pharaohs is provided in the "kings' gallery" to the south of 
the sanctuaries in the passageway leading to a butchering room. The names of 
Akhenaten, Smenkhkare and Tutankhamen are omitted from the list, as if to erase their 
reigns from recorded history. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 114 

The temple is set within a large enclosure wall (circa 220><350m) with a large 
mudbrick pylon facing the desert, from which a processional way probably led to the 
royal tombs at Umm el-Qa'ab. Access to the temple was from the east, up ramps that led 
into two large courtyards, one after the other. The temple was left unfinished at the death 
of Seti I and most of the front section of the temple was finished in sunk relief during the 
reign of Seti I's son Ramesses II. The southeast interior wall of the first court contains a 
representation of Ramesses II fighting the Hittites at Qadesh. The names of Merenptah, 
Ramesses III and Ramesses IV are also preserved on these front courts. To the east of 
these courts lies a large storehouse or set of magazines, such as were also found at the 
Ramesseum. In the center of these is a podium with pillars which would have served as a 
reception center for incoming or outgoing goods. 

With seven sanctuaries, the temple's plan is exceptionally broad. Access to the 
sanctuaries was through two transverse hypostyle halls, the first with two rows of 
columns and the second with three. In the first hypostyle hall the names of Seti I have 
been overwritten by Ramesses II. The seven sanctuaries are mostly decorated with scenes 
from the daily cult ritual showing the king entering the shrine, offering and anointing the 
god's statue and bark and then departing while sweeping away his footprints as he goes. 
Six of these shrines have a false door depicted on their western wall through which the 
deity was thought to enter the temple. The exception is the shrine to Osiris; here an actual 
door leads to a unique suite of rooms at the back of the temple in which the Mysteries of 
Osiris were celebrated. The highlight of these ceremonies was the erection of the djed 
pillar, symbolizing the resurrection of Osiris. 

Immediately behind the chambers dedicated to the Osiris cult is another unique 
feature, a subterranean structure known as the "Osireion." The Osireion is built in the 
shape of an 18th Dynasty tomb in the Valley of the Kings. It is entered from the north 
through a long passage decorated with scenes from the Book of Gates and offering 
scenes. Taking a 90° turn, the passage leads into the structure from the west, along the 
main axis of the temple, through two transverse halls decorated with mythological scenes, 
including some from the Book of the Dead. The center of the structure is a large 
(30.5x20m) hall built of red granite with ten piers set in two rows. In imitation of the 
primeval hill of creation, two platforms (for sarcophagus and canopic chest?) were 
surrounded by a water-filled moat. The final transverse hall contains reliefs of Shu, god 
of the atmosphere, supporting the sky goddess Nut. Deliberately built to recall earlier 
structures, the Osireion is nevertheless an integral part of the Seti temple complex. 
Merenptah, Seti I's grandson, added reliefs to the Osireion. 

Graffiti indicate that the Osireion was visited by pilgrims from the 21st Dynasty until 
the Roman period. During the later periods of ancient Egyptian history, foreign visitors 
also left graffiti in the Seti temple in languages such as Aramaic, Phoenician, Carian, 
Greek and Cypriot. In the Ptolemaic period, Serapis was worshipped in the temple, but 
was replaced by Bes in the Roman period. Strabo (17.1.42) calls the Osireion the 
"Memnonium," perhaps from the name Men-Ma'at-Re (Seti I), and indicates that Abydos 
was only a small settlement in the first century AD. The Bes oracle was suppressed by 
the emperor Constantine II in AD 359 and again by the Copts under St Moses in the fifth 
century AD. A Christian convent established in the back of the Seti I temple did not last 
long and the temple site was soon abandoned. The site was not rediscovered until 1718, 

Entries A-Z 115 

when it was visited by the Jesuit Pere Claude Sicard. The temple was cleared in the mid- 
nineteenth century under the direction of the French archaeologist Auguste Mariette. 

See also 

cult temples of the New Kingdom; Mariette, Francois Auguste Ferdinand; Thebes, royal 
funerary temples 

Further reading 

Calverley, A.M., and M.F.Broome. 1933-58. The Temple of King Sethos I atAbydos. 4 vols. 

London and Chicago. 
David, R. 1981. A Guide to Religious Ritual atAbydos. Warminster. 
Otto, E. 1968. Egyptian Art and the Cults of Osiris andAmon. London. 


Abydos, Predynastic sites 

The region encompassed by this discussion stretches approximately 20km north and 
south of Abydos (26°1T N, 31°55' E), about two-thirds of the Dynastic Thinite nome. A 
number of early excavations focused on Predynastic sites, particularly cemeteries, dating 
to the fourth millennium BC. In 1900, David Randall Maclver and Arthur Mace 
excavated the important Predynastic cemetery at el-Amra, with hundreds of shallow 
graves from all Predynastic phases. Other important early excavations were conducted at 
the cemeteries of Naga ed-Deir, el-Mahasna, Mesheikh, Beit Allam and the numerous 
cemeteries at Abydos itself (Cemeteries B, C, D, E, G, U, X and <t>). More recently, 
excavations of the cemeteries at Deir el-Nawahid and es-Salmani have increased our 
knowledge of Predynastic burial practices and social organization. 

Several settlement sites within the region have also been investigated. In the early 
1900s, while excavating Predynastic and Dynastic tombs at Abydos, T.Eric Peet 
discovered and excavated the remains of a late Predynastic settlement. At the same time, 
John Garstang identified an important settlement at el-Mahasna, which was continuously 
occupied throughout all Predynastic phases. In 1982-3 Diana Craig Patch conducted a 
large-scale regional survey of the low desert plain in the Abydos region in order to locate 
all preserved Predynastic sites, both settlements and cemeteries. Patch was then able to 
reconstruct the regional spatial arrangement of Predynastic villages and towns. 
Settlements were evenly spaced, approximately l-2km apart along the low desert margin. 
However, there appears to 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 116 

B*i: A c-y* 

Hog *-*'a«5*5* ''-, 
c I ■ £ r — - - # 
A&see* Con* *»«' 


C*f» ♦* i#- ♦■•** 

Figure 6 Predynastic sites in the 
Abydos region 

be a somewhat greater spacing between the Abydos core area and sites immediately north 
and south, which may suggest that an artificial "spacing" was maintained between the 
larger zones of settlement and the smaller ones. 

The majority of the settlements appeared to be uniform in size, 1.5-2.0ha (Nag el- 
Alawana, en-Nawahid and el-Baraghit). Most of these sites represent small farming 
villages, especially in the earlier phases of the Predynastic period. Over time some 
nucleation and abandonment of settlements occurred, and later in the fourth millennium 
BC populations were concentrated at Abydos, el-Mahasna and Thinis. Except for el- 
Mahasna, the increase in settlement size is only evident in the increased size of the 
cemeteries at Abydos and Naga ed-Deir. The abandonment of the other settlements may 
not have been entirely the result of populations nucleating in the larger settlements, but 
rather a result of settlement patterns shifting from low desert locations to locations within 
the floodplain itself, where, because of overlying flood deposits, these settlements have 
not been located. Unfortunately, the actual settlement of Thinis, later an important nome 
capital, has never been located. 

By late Predynastic times the larger settlements had specialized areas of activities. El- 
Mahasna, which may have covered up to 15ha, had beer-brewing facilities, which 
Garstang identified as pottery kilns. From 1909 to 1912, while working in the cemeteries 
in the Abydos core, T.Eric Peet excavated the remains of a large Predynastic settlement 
just outside the wall of the New Kingdom temple of Seti I. The settlement consisted of a 
layer of dark debris, possibly the remains of Predynastic houses, within which were 
thousands of flint tools and flakes, as well as potsherds dating the site to the late 
Predynastic. In the center of the site was a large concentration of small stone drills and 

Entries A-Z 117 

borers associated with unworked pieces of semiprecious stones and the debris from 
working these materials. Stone beads were manufactured here, providing evidence of 
craft specialization. Also in this settlement was a kiln structure consisting of large 
ceramic vats supported by baked brick structures, now thought to be a large-scale 
brewing facility. 

See also 

brewing and baking; Naga ed-Deir; nome structure; Predynastic period, overview 

Further reading 

Patch, D.C. 1991. "The Origin and Early Development of Urbanism in Ancient Egypt: A Regional 

Study." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania. 
Peet, T.E. 1914. Cemeteries ofAbydos II, 1911-12. London. 
Randall Maclver, D., and A.C.Mace. 1902. El-Amrah andAbydos, 1899-1901. London. 


Abydos, South 

To the south of the main center of the ancient town of Abydos (26°1T N, 31°55' E) is an 
extensive area of low desert, generally referred to as South Abydos. This part of Abydos 
was developed primarily as a zone for the construction of a series of royal cult 
foundations during the Middle and New Kingdoms. Two relatively well preserved cult 
complexes have been identified at South Abydos. These are the complex of Senusret III 
of the 12th Dynasty, and that of Ahmose of the 18th Dynasty. There is an additional 
unfinished complex, apparently of the 12th Dynasty, and evidence of other royal cult 
establishments in the area. Besides the cult structures themselves, extensive areas of 
settlement, responsible for maintenance and operation of the cults, lie along the desert 

Mortuary complex of Senusret III 

Archaeological work at the Senusret III complex was first conducted by the Egypt 
Exploration Society (EES) between 1899 and 1902. In 1899 the Senusret III mortuary 
temple was located by David Randall Maclver, who excavated most of the temple and 
mapped the standing architecture. His fieldwork was followed in 1901 by that of Arthur 
Weigall, who excavated and mapped the great enclosure around the subterranean tomb, 
as well as the associated superstructures (mastabas) and other subsidiary buildings. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 118 

Weigall also initiated excavations which led to the discovery of the tomb entrance. The 
tomb's interior was cleared and a plan was made by Charles Currelly in 1902. 

Subsequent to the EES work, no work was conducted at the site until the excavations 
by the Pennsylvania- Yale expedition to Abydos in 1994. This work concentrated firstly 
on a reexamination of the mortuary temple and its surroundings, and secondly on 
excavation of the Middle Kingdom town site to the south of the temple. 

The Senusret III complex is focused on a large subterranean tomb built at the base of 
the desert cliffs. The stone-lined tomb, approximately 170m in length, contains a burial 
chamber with a concealed sarcophagus and canopic chest, in which the deceased's 
viscera were placed. Built within a large T-shaped mudbrick enclosure, the burial 
chamber lies behind an elaborate blocking system. Associated with the tomb enclosure 
are a series of structures, including a complex of storerooms and a raised mudbrick 
platform, which may be connected with cultic activities. Four mastabas are associated 
with the tomb enclosure, including two dummy ones on the south side which were filled 
with limestone chippings from the construction of the subterranean tomb. On the north 
side of the enclosure are two mastabas with elaborate interiors. These tombs probably 
date to the 13th Dynasty. As with the Senusret III tomb itself, these mastabas are fronted 
by mudbrick platforms, possibly for structures for offering cults. 

Approximately 750m from the tomb enclosure of Senusret III, located on the edge of 
the low desert, is a large mortuary temple. In form this temple consists of a large 
rectangular mudbrick structure, fronted by a pylon gateway and surrounded by a 
mudbrick-paved street and enclosure wall. The central third of this temple consisted of a 
limestone court where the actual cult building was located. It stood on a raised platform 
and was fronted by a columned forecourt. The temple interior was decorated with reliefs 
very similar to those of earlier Old and Middle Kingdom royal mortuary temples. 
Additional reliefs, however, suggest scenes specifically connected with Abydos and the 
cult of Osiris. Life-size alabaster statues stood within the cult building, while red 
quartzite ones decorated the forecourt. Flanking this court were two wings, one with three 
houses for temple personnel and the other with storerooms and areas for preparing 
offerings. Outside the temple, but directly adjacent to it to the south, are areas of 
extensive industrial debris. These appear to have been used primarily for baking and 
brewing associated with the temple. 

Approximately 300m to the south of the Senusret III mortuary temple are the remains 
of a large planned settlement founded during the late 12th Dynasty. This town may have 
been established in connection with the Senusret III complex or another 12th Dynasty 
royal cult. The town was continuously occupied until the end of the 13th Dynasty, when 
it appears to have been abandoned. At least partial reuse of this town occurred during the 
18th Dynasty. 

In function and organization the mortuary complex of Senusret III at Abydos closely 
parallels other Middle Kingdom establishments for the maintenance of royal cults. Its 
greatest similarities are with the royal pyramid complexes in the Memphis and Fayum 
regions. The combination of burial place with attached cult area, separate valley temple 
and associated settlements is also seen in other Middle Kingdom royal cult complexes, 
such as at Lahun, el-Lisht and Dahshur. 

The Senusret III complex has been interpreted as a royal cenotaph, a symbolic tomb 
built at Abydos to connect the deceased king with the god Osiris. Expression of the 

Entries A-Z 119 

relationship between the dead king and Osiris appears to have been a fundamental 
element of this complex. However, there are no indications that it was constructed as a 
cenotaph. The complex was a fully functional royal mortuary establishment, which 
maintained an offering cult like those associated with pyramid complexes. Senusret III 
may have been buried either in this tomb or in his pyramid at Dahshur. 


Early 18th Dynasty monuments 

About 1km south of Senusret Ill's complex at Abydos, a series of monuments was 
constructed in the early 18th Dynasty by King Ahmose for the veneration of the king as 
an aspect of the god Osiris, and in honor of female members of his family. Mudbricks 
impressed with the phrase "Nebpehtyre [Ahmose], beloved of Osiris" are found in all cult 
structures of the complex, which was probably begun after Ahmose's Hyksos campaigns. 
The king's Abydos monuments are the most significant ones known from his reign, and 
are thus important for the development of New Kingdom architectural traditions. 

Although Emile Amelineau appears to have sampled the area in 1896, the pyramid and 
pyramid temple of Ahmose were first systematically identified and investigated by 
Arthur Mace for the EES in 1899-1900. Looking for interior chambers, Mace also 
attempted unsuccessfully to tunnel inside the pyramid. Working for the EES in 1902, 
Charles Currelly discovered the terraced temple of Ahmose, a small cemetery next to the 
pyramid, the shrine of the king's grandmother, Tetisheri, a subterranean tomb, and the 
"Ahmose town." The settlement area was further excavated in 1966 by the Egyptian 
Antiquities Organization (EAO). In 1993, the University of Pennsylvania- Yale 
University-Institute of Fine Arts, New York University Expedition to Abydos (Stephen 
Harvey, field director) undertook an intensive program of mapping, surface collection 
and excavation of the Ahmose monuments, resulting in the discovery of thousands of 
additional fragments of limestone relief from the pyramid temple, as well as the location 
of an additional structure constructed for Queen Ahmose-Nefertary. 

Ahmose's complex consists of a series of structures 1.4km long aligned on a 
northeast-southwest axis across the low desert. Close to the edge of the modern 
cultivation is a sandy mound about 80x80m and 10m high, known locally as Kom Sheikh 
Mohammed. The mound conceals the remains of a large pyramid, with a loose core of 
sand and stone debris. According to Mace's account, the pyramid was originally cased 
with limestone blocks, with an angle of inclination of about 63°. Associated with the 
pyramid is a mudbrick and limestone temple, 48><57m, dominated by a central pillared 
court and fronted by a wide mudbrick pylon. Subsidiary annexes on either side of the 
court were perhaps intended for storage and priests' houses. A smaller chapel, 19m wide, 
was partially excavated in 1993 and may be associated with Queen Ahmose-Nefertary. 

Since the pyramid and temple were both thoroughly razed in antiquity, their 
reconstruction can only be incomplete. Reliefs appear to have consisted of scenes relating 
to (1) the royal mortuary cult, especially scenes of the offering table ritual, and (2) an 
extensive battle narrative, which, on the basis of fragments, may be identified as 
Ahmose's triumph over an Asiatic enemy (probably the Hyksos). Fragments of the battle 
narrative include the earliest detailed representations of horses and chariots in Egyptian 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 120 

art, as well as depictions of elaborate royal ships. Substantial remains of a 6m high 
mudbrick ramp behind the rear wall of the pyramid temple most likely derive from the 
dismantling of the pyramid's limestone casing for reuse elsewhere. 

On either side of the pyramid were domestic and industrial zones for personnel of the 
royal cult. To the west of the pyramid, a series of orthogonally planned houses in 
mudbrick probably served as a residence for officials and workers. Burials found by 
Currelly immediately east of the pyramid may be part of this community's cemetery. 
Also to the east of the pyramid was an industrial area, where large volumes of 
construction debris and evidence of bakeries have been recently excavated. 

Ahmose and Ahmose-Nefertary constructed a mudbrick memorial shrine in honor of 
Queen Tetisheri, as described in the text of a monumental stela now in Cairo (CG 34002). 
The stela was found in the shrine, about 450m to the southwest of Ahmose's pyramid 
temple. Most likely built in pyramidal form, the shrine is approximately 21x23m in area. 
About 500m to the south of the Tetisheri shrine is a subterranean rock-cut tomb 
consisting of a mudbrick-lined shaft at the level of the desert surface leading to a winding 
passage and a central hall supported by eighteen pillars. However, it is uncertain whether 
this tomb was intended for use as an actual or symbolic burial. 

At the base of the high cliffs, 1.15km to the southwest of the pyramid, Ahmose 
constructed terraced foundations for another cult structure, which may have remained 
unfinished. A lower terrace wall, 104m long, was built of mudbrick, while the upper 
terrace had a retaining wall of rough limestone. Deposits of miniature ceramic and stone 
model vessels, as well as a series of model wooden boats and oars were discovered along 
the upper terrace. At the southeastern end of the terraces a series of rooms and passages 
of unknown function were constructed in mudbrick; no traces of structures have been 
located atop the terraces. 

Both textual and archaeological evidence attest to the 250-year history of the Ahmose 
cult at Abydos. Titles of priests of Ahmose are known throughout the later 18th Dynasty 
and up to the time of Ramesses II, which accords well with the latest inscription found at 
the site, a cartouche of Merenptah (19th Dynasty). A stela from Abydos provides 
evidence of an oracle of Ahmose in the Ramesside era. The cult came to an end with the 
destruction of the temple complex in Ramesside times. 

See also 

Dahshur, Middle Kingdom pyramids; Hyksos; Lahun, pyramid complex of Senusret II; 
Lahun, town; el-Lisht; Middle Kingdom, overview; New Kingdom, overview 

Further reading 

Arnold, D. 1991. Building in Egypt. New York. 

Ayrton, E.R., C.T.Currelly and A.E.P.Weigall. 1904. Abydos Part III. London. 
Harvey, S. 1994. The monuments of Ahmose at Abydos. Egyptian Archaeology 4:3-5. 
Simpson, W.K. 1974. The Terrace of the Great God at Abydos. Pennsylvania-Yale Expedition to 
Abydos. New Haven, CT. 


Entries A-Z 121 

Abydos, Umm el-Qa'ab 

The Predynastic/Early Dynastic royal cemetery at Umm el-Qa'ab is located about 1.5km 
from cultivated land in the low desert (26°11' N, 31°55' E). To the east is a large wadi 
ending near the ancient settlement at Abydos known as Kom es-Sultan, next to the great 
funerary enclosures of the 1st and 2nd Dynasties. 

The cemetery seems to have developed from north to south and consists of three parts: 

1 Predynastic Cemetery U in the north; 

2 Cemetery B with royal tombs of Dynasty and the early 1st Dynasty in the middle; 

3 the tomb complexes of six kings and one queen of the 1st Dynasty and two kings of the 

2nd Dynasty in the south. 

The cemeteries were first excavated by E. Amelineau in 1895-8. Flinders Petrie 
continued the excavation of Cemetery B and the later complexes in 1899-1900. Some 
parts of the cemetery were investigated again in 1911-12 by E.Peet and E.Naville. Since 
1973 the German Institute of Archaeology (DAI) has been reexamining the entire 
cemetery. To date, parts of Cemetery U, Cemetery B and the complexes of Den (Dewen) 
and Qa'a have been re-excavated, and more limited investigations have been conducted 
at the subsidiary tombs of Djer and the complexes of Djet (Wadj) and Khasekhemwy. 
The complex of Den is being reconstructed. 

From the very beginning, these tombs have been plundered many times and most of 
the 1st Dynasty tombs show traces of immense fires. The finds from the early 
excavations were in part sold (by Amelineau) and distributed to many collections. The 
most important ones are in Berlin, Brussels, Cairo, Chateaudun, Chicago (Oriental 
Institute), London (University College, British Museum), New York (Metropolitan 
Museum), Oxford, Paris (Louvre) and Philadelphia (University Museum). The artifacts 
found by the German mission are stored at Abydos. 

Cemetery U 

Cemetery U covers an area of circa 100x200m on a slightly elevated plateau between 
Cemetery B and the "heka-reshu" hill (where Petrie found New Kingdom shawabtis 
inscribed with this name). Amelineau reports excavating circa 150-60 graves of different 
types here (in four days!); 32 small graves were excavated by Peet in 1911. Both 
excavators published only a few details without a general plan. 

During the clearance of the desert surface by the DAI, about 400 grave pits and 
hundreds of small empty offering pits (New Kingdom and later) were mapped. By 1993 
about 120 tombs had been excavated, mostly in the central and southern part but a few at 
the northwestern edge. Ceramics are those of the Predynastic (Nagada) culture of Upper 
Egypt, which were first described and classified by Petrie and later revised in Nagada 
culture sub-periods by Werner Kaiser. 

In Nagada I-IIa times Cemetery U seems to have been fairly undifferentiated, 
although there are a few somewhat rich burials. Thus far the Nagada Ilb-c sub-period is 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 122 

underrepresented (there are almost no D-class pots), but in Nagada IId2 the cemetery had 
obviously developed into an elite one, with large tombs which were probably those of 
chieftains (and their kin). The multiple-chamber tombs (Nagada Ilia) and the larger 
single-chamber tombs (Nagada IIIa-IIIb/Dynasty 0) belonged, in all likelihood, to a 
sequence of rulers succeeded by the kings of Dynasty 0, who were buried in Cemetery B. 
Of particular importance is the large tomb, U-j, discovered in 1988. According to 



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Figure 7 Umm el-Qa'ab, Abydos, 
Cemeteries U and B (1992) 

radiocarbon samples, it dates to circa 150 years before King Aha(beginning of the 1st 
Dynasty). The tomb is divided into twelve chambers and measures 9.1><7.3m. 

Although robbed and perhaps partly excavated earlier, Tomb U-j still contained much 
funerary equipment, including many ivory and bone artifacts, about 150 small labels with 
short inscriptions, large amounts of different kinds of Egyptian pottery, and more than 
200 imported (wine) jars, probably from Palestine. In the burial chamber there were 
traces of a wooden shrine on the floor, and in the northeastern corner a complete crook- 
style scepter of ivory was found, leaving no doubt that the owner of the tomb was a ruler. 

Entries A-Z 123 

The small labels, incised with numbers or one to four hieroglyphic signs, show writing 
was at a developed stage. In all likelihood, the numbers indicate sizes of pieces of cloth 
and the signs presumably give the provenance of different goods. At least some of the 
inscriptions are readable (with phonetic values), mentioning administrative institutions, 
royal (agricultural) estates, or localities such as Buto and Bubastis in the Delta. Many of 
the W-class pots are also "inscribed" with one or two large signs in black ink. The most 
frequent sign is a scorpion, sometimes together with a plant. This is likely to be read as 
the "(agricultural) estate of Scorpion." Because of the high frequency of pots with this 
toponym, it can probably be concluded that a king named Scorpion was buried in the 

Cemetery B 

Cemetery B is the location of three double- 





i — . — j> 

Figure 8 Inscribed labels from Tomb 
U-j, Umm el-Qa'ab, Abydos (2:1). 

chamber tombs of Dynasty (Bl/2, B7/9, B17/ 18) and two tomb complexes of the early 
1st Dynasty (BIO/15/19+16, B40/50). The area to the northwest of these tombs is still 
covered by debris and has never been cleared. 

Petrie's attribution of the tombs to Kings Horus Ro (Bl/2), Ka (B7), Narmer(?) (BIO), 
Sma(?) (B15) and Aha(?) (B19) was widely accepted until Kaiser re-examined the 
information in Petrie's report. Since a King "Sma" never existed, Kaiser concluded that 
the three large chambers (BIO/15/19) together with the rows of subsidiary chambers 
(B16) should in fact be ascribed to King Aha ; whereas the groups of double chambers 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 124 

were most likely those of his predecessors: Narmer (B17/18), Ka (B7/9) and perhaps, as 
Petrie had suggested, another king, Ro (Bl/2). During the excavations by the DAI, 
Kaiser's reassessment was fully confirmed and the tomb's development became much 

The relative sequence of the double chamber tombs is clearly demonstrated by their 
sizes and positions (following the general north-south development). Evidence of 
inscribed pots from Bl/2 and B7 indicates that these two tombs belonged to (Kings) Irj- 
Hor (Petrie's Ro) and Ka. Scattered seal impressions and different artifacts with 
inscriptions found around B17/18 are evidence that this tomb belonged to Narmer. These 
kings were the last rulers of Dynasty 0. 

The inscribed material found nearby, as well as the similarities of construction and 
size of the large chambers (circa 7. 5x4. 5m, and 3.6m deep), leave no doubt that the 
whole complex of chambers belongs to Aha jt seems, however, to have been built in 
three stages. 

In BIO/15/19 there are traces of large wooden shrines. Relatively few tomb goods 
were found in B15 and B19, which had been robbed and were later set on fire. Human 
remains were collected around the subsidiary chambers of B16. Most of the bones were 
of young males about twenty years of age, who must have been killed when the king was 
buried. Near the long easternmost chamber, bones of at least seven young lions were 

B40, a large pit similar in size to B 10/15/19 but without a mudbrick lining, was 
discovered in 1985. Although there were remains of a wooden roof construction, the 
tomb was found empty and without any evidence of use. According to its size and its 
position between the complexes of Aha anc j Djer, B40 may be ascribed to Athotis I, the 
ephemeral successor of Aha 

The little complex of four small chambers (B50) to the south of B40 was probably 
intended for the subsidiary burials. B40 was probably regarded as not suitable, and the 
king (and his wife?) were buried in the southern chambers of B50, where there are traces 
of wooden coffins. 

Tomb complexes of the lst-2nd Dynasties 

The seven tomb complexes of Kings Djer, Djet, Den, Adjib, Smerkhet and Qa'a, and 
Queen Meret-Neith of the 1st Dynasty, generally have the same plan. This consists of a 
large burial chamber surrounded by storerooms and many subsidiary burial chambers for 
servants (men, women, dwarves) and dogs. 

The burial chambers all contained a large wooden shrine. The earliest known use of 
stone on a large scale is seen in the burial chamber of Den's tomb, where the floor was 
originally paved with slabs of red and black granite. From the time of Den there is a 
staircase leading into this chamber, which was blocked off after the burial. In the earlier 
tombs the storerooms are inside the burial chamber (Djer, Djet); in the later tombs they 
are attached to the walls on the outside or very close to it (Den). 

From Djer to Den, the subsidiary burial chambers are arranged in separate rows 
around the royal burial chamber; only in the complexes of Smerkhet and Qa'a are they 
attached to it. The largest of these tomb complexes, belonging to Djer, contained over 

Entries A-Z 125 

200 subsidiary chambers. Except for one high official (of Qa'a), the subsidiary burials 
seem to be those of persons of lower rank (all in wooden coffins). In all probability they 
were killed to serve the king in his afterlife, but this custom ceased at the end of the 1st 
Dynasty. The two 2nd Dynasty tombs here, belonging to Kings Peribsen and 
Khasekhemwy, contained no subsidiary burials. 

No remains of superstructures have been found, but it is likely that the royal burial 
chambers were covered by a mound of sand. 

At each tomb complex there were two large stelae with the owner's name. The most 
famous one, the stela of Djet, was found by Amelineau and is now in the Louvre. There 
were also small stelae for the occupants of the subsidiary chambers, including those of 
the dogs (Den). None of these stelae, however, were found in situ. 

Apart from an arm with bracelets made of precious stones, which was found having 
been hidden by robbers behind the staircase in Djer's tomb, and two fragmentary 
skeletons in Khasekhemwy's tomb, no other remains of the royal burials were 
discovered. Some of the subsidiary burials and storerooms, however, were found more or 
less undisturbed. 

Khasekhemwy's large tomb has the new feature of a limestone-lined burial chamber, 
built below the floor level. This tomb has a completely different design from the other 
royal tombs at this site, and is similar to the gallery tombs of the 2nd Dynasty at Saqqara 
with an increased number of storerooms. 

Important evidence of writing has been found in the tomb of Qa'a. Seal impressions of 
Hetepsekhemwy, the first king of the 2nd Dynasty, indicate that he completed Qa'a's 
burial and there was no break between the dynasties. Impressions of another seal found 
here, probably used by the administration of the cemetery, lists the names of all the kings 
buried at Umm el-Qa'ab, from Narmer to Qa'a. About thirty ivory labels with 
inscriptions referring to deliveries of oil were also found near this tomb. 

Umm el-Qa'ab as a cult center 

Beginning in the Middle Kingdom, the site gained new importance because of its 
association with the cult of Osiris, who was believed to have been buried here. It thus 
became the most sacred site in Egypt, and during the New Kingdom and Late period 
thousands of pilgrims left large amounts of offering pots, mostly small bowls called 
qa'ab in Arabic (hence the modern name of Umm el-Qa'ab). Amelineau estimated a total 
of about eight million pots. 

There is evidence that the tombs were already excavated during the 12th Dynasty, 
probably in order to identify the burial place of Osiris. In Qa'a's tomb, some Middle 
Kingdom pots were found on the floor of the burial chamber, and a staircase had been 
built over the remaining lower part of the portcullis. In Den's tomb the entrance to the 
burial chamber is also partly restored in large (unburned) mudbricks, and the whole 
staircase shows traces of a secondary whitewash. The conversion of Djer's tomb into a 
cenotaph of Osiris may have taken place at the same time. A bier for Osiris (with an 
erased inscription) was found in this tomb by Amelineau. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 126 

See also 

Abydos, Early Dynastic funerary enclosures; Abydos, Predynastic sites; Nagada 
(Naqada); Petrie, Sir William Matthew Flinders; pottery, prehistoric; Predynastic period, 

Figure 9 Tomb of King Qa'a, Umm el- 
Qa'ab, Abydos 

Saqqara North, Early Dynastic tombs; writing, invention and early development 

Entries A-Z 127 

Further reading 

Amelineau, E. 1895-1904. Les Nouvelles Fouilles d'Abydos 1-3. Paris. 

. 1899. he Tombeau d'Osiris. Paris. 

Dreyer, G. 1991. Zur Rekonstruktion der Oberbauten der Konigsgraber der 1. Dynastie in Abydos. 

MDAIK 52:11-81. 
. 1992. Recent discoveries at Abydos Cemetery U. In The Nile Delta in Transition: 4th.-3rd. 

Millennium BC, E.C.M. van den Brink, ed., 293-9. Tel Aviv. 

. 1993. Umm el-Qaab, 576. Vorbericht. MDAIK 49:23-62. 

. 1996. Umm el-Qaab, 778. Vorbericht. MDAIK 51:11-81. 

Kaiser, W. 1964. Einige Bemerkungen zur agyptischen Friihzeit III. ZAS 91:86-125. 

. 1981. Zu den Konigsgrabern der 1. Dynastie in Umm el-Qaab. MDAIK 37: 247-54. 

Kaiser, W., and G.Dreyer. 1982. Umm el-Qaab, 2. Vorbericht. MDAIK 38:211-69. 

Naville, E. 1914. Cemeteries of Abydos 1. London. 

Peet, T.E. 1914. Cemeteries of Abydos 2. London. 

Petrie, W.M.F. 1900-1. The Royal Tombs of the First Dynasty, 1-2. London. 

. 1902. Abydos 1. London. 



The Predynastic site of el-Adaima is situated on the west bank of the Nile, about 8km 
south of Esna (25° 14' N, 32°35' E). It includes a very plundered cemetery and a 
settlement consisting of artifacts scattered over the surface for about 1km along the edge 
of cultivated land. The whole site covers about 40ha. 

The site was discovered at the beginning of the century by Henri de Morgan, who 
excavated a part of the settlement and the plundered tombs. Most of the associated finds 
are now in the Brooklyn Museum. In 1973 Fernand Debono, working for the French 
Institute of Archaeology in Cairo, excavated thirty badly plundered tombs in an area of 
the cemetery which, by 1988, had been destroyed by extending the land under cultivation. 

Excavations of what remained of the site were begun in 1989, under the direction of 
Beatrix Midant-Reynes for the French Institute. A surface collection was first conducted, 
followed by several field seasons of excavation. This revealed a complex development of 
the settlement, which gradually shifted in location from the desert to the valley during the 
course of the Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods (fourth and early third millennia 

The settlement is divided to the north and south by a large east-west depression which 
has been identified as a clay quarry, but its date remains unknown. On the northern side, 
terraces of gravel and silt show evidence of much disturbance by illicit digging for 
organic remains of the ancient settlement (sebbakh), used by local farmers for fertilizer. 
The southern side consists of a thick layer of sand, which slopes down to the south. 

Excavations in the northern part of the site revealed occupation features of trenches 
and holes which were cut into the gravel terrace. The trenches, perpendicular or parallel 
to each other, were arranged in three areas which were associated with 73 mud holes. The 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 128 

diameter of these holes varied from 13 to 145cm (averaging circa 45cm); they varied 
from 2 to 19cm in depth (averaging circa 8cm). The trenches are probably the remains of 
reed fences plastered with mud and occasionally reinforced with wooden posts, as found 
at other Predynastic sites. More enigmatic are the holes, which could sometimes be 
interpreted as postholes, but most of them are too large and not deep enough for 

Paleobotanical material was recovered by flotation from the filling of the holes, 
including seeds of wheat (Triticum monococcum) and barley (Hordeum sativum). 
Evidence for two kinds of activities is found here: storage of grain, and 
pounding/grinding grain. The ab-sence of large grinding stones at the site and the 
presence of an elongated, rod-shaped, granite hammerstone in one of these holes suggest 
the latter function. 

Based on the potsherds found in the filling of the trenches and holes, these structures 
date to the early/middle Predynastic period (end of Nagada I to the middle of Nagada II). 
The very mixed material on the surface is later, however, but never later than the 1st 

The excavation in the southern part of the site revealed the existence of an undisturbed 
domestic area of special interest. Features such as hearths, storage jars and large grinding 
stones of granite and limestone contrast with badly eroded dwellings, the remains of 
which consisted of consolidated sand mixed with sherds. Numerous postholes and small 
wooden posts suggest light houses of timbers and reed. At least two occupational phases 
have been identified. There is also evidence here of four newborn infants, a skull of a 
young adult and five animal skeletons. One of the newborn remains was associated with a 
small pot and a Nile shell (Etheria elliptica), which was probably used as a spoon. The 
skull of the young adult had been deposited with offerings of animal bones. (Headless 
skeletons have been found buried in the cemetery at el-Ada'ima, and the buried skull may 
be ritually connected to such burial practices.) The skeletons of four dogs and one pig 
were found in pits which had been dug in the completely virgin soil apart from the other 
settlement remains. 

In the cemetery, 130 graves have been excavated out of an estimated 1,500. Seventeen 
of the excavated burials were intact, but others were completely destroyed. Most of the 
burials, however, had been disturbed during Predynastic times and some observations 
about the human remains and the funerary offerings were possible. 

Concerning mortuary practices, two kinds of burials can be distinguished: single 
burials (82) and multiple burials (21). The single burials included those with grave goods 
(up to thirty vessels), and those without (two undisturbed burials). The multiple burials 
included double burials (two out of seventeen were intact) and burials with three 
skeletons (three, all disturbed). One burial contained five skeletons associated with a 
large hearth; this burial had been badly plundered, so that the hearth ashes were mixed 
with broken human bones. A few cases of infectious disease have been identified from 
the human remains, which is an interesting occurrence in this pre-urban period. 

The multi-component character of the site of el-Ada'ima, with its functionally specific 
activity areas and domestic units, makes it an important site for data on Egyptian 
prehistory, the paleoenvironment and subsistence strategies. With a contemporaneous 
cemetery and settlement, comparisons of the different data can be made. Even though it is 
partially disturbed, the site offers information of special relevance to those interested in 

Entries A-Z 129 

town planning, daily life and mortuary practices. The stone tool industry and the ceramics 
also provide samples for comparison with other late prehistoric sites in Egypt and abroad. 

See also 

Neolithic and Predynastic stone tools; pottery, prehistoric; Predynastic period, overview 

Further reading 

Crubezy, E., ed. 1992. Paleo-ethnologie funeraire et Paleo-Biologie. Archeo-Nil 2. 
Midant-Reynes, B. 1992. Prehistoire de I'Egypte. Des premiers hommes aux premiers pharaons. 

Needier, W. 1984. Predynastic and Archaic Egypt in The Brooklyn Museum. Brooklyn, NY. 


administrative bureaucracy 

A fully developed administrative bureaucracy is one of the most characteristic features of 
ancient Egyptian civilization. Whereas the king was the religious and political 
embodiment of the state, the administration represented the state in practical terms for its 
citizens. Legislation was a royal prerogative. There is no clear evidence that the king ever 
delegated it to any other person. Officials of the administration had the power, the right 
and the duty to execute plans, wills and orders of the king and to put law into effect. They 
served the king, who theoretically had the power and the right of appointment and 
removal in all departments of public service, in temple administration and in the army. 
The Egyptian administration was highly centralized as far as its hierarchy was concerned. 
The delegation of executive power was strictly authoritarian: from the top downward, 
from the king to the highest officials of the state and from them to their subordinates. The 
head of the civil administration was the vizier, who acted as the king's deputy. 

The importance of the administrative bureaucracy is underlined by the fact that the 
vast majority of individuals known from pharaonic Egypt are persons belonging to that 
bureaucracy. From the Middle Kingdom onward, "scribe" was the general term applied to 
them. From as early as the Old Kingdom, there are statues which represent officials as a 
scribe squatting on the earth, a papyrus roll on his lap with a brush in his hand to write on 
it. Their social status and their privileges are mentioned in literary texts from the Middle 
and New Kingdoms, although these texts do overestimate or exaggerate the advantages of 
being a member of the bureaucracy. For example, scribes are said not to pay taxes, a 
statement that is certainly not correct. 

The Egyptian administration is mainly known from the titularies of its officials. The 
value of this huge amount of data, however, is restricted. Titles reflect the organizational 
structure of the administration; they reflect the position of the title holder within the 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 130 

administration, and they define his position in society. They are evidence of the 
department to which officials belonged, and they show their level of responsibility or 
authority within that department's hierarchy. Information about their functions and 
responsibilities generally must be drawn from other sources, such as administrative 
documents, biographies and other texts. The so-called Duties of the Vizier is the only text 
known from ancient Egypt that clearly describes the function of an Egyptian official. 
Copies of this text are found in tombs of the Theban necropolis dating to the New 
Kingdom; the best preserved one is that in the tomb of Rekhmire, the vizier under 
Tuthmose III and Amenhotep II. There can be no doubt that the text goes back to the 
Middle Kingdom. 

The first titles of officials are known from the 1st Dynasty. These titles prove the 
existence of a certain kind of administration, but they do not prove the existence of a 
fully developed administrative bureaucracy. By the beginning of the Old Kingdom, 
however, the development of the administrative bureaucracy must have reached an 
advanced stage. Huge building projects, such as the construction of pyramids for the 
reigning king, were possible only with the help of a bureaucratic system to put all 
necessary means (men and materials) at the king's disposal. 

The first preserved text dealing with administrative matters, the inscription of Metjen 
from the beginning of the 4th Dynasty, clearly shows that registration of land property, its 
owner and size, was done by representatives of the state administration. Land was the 
basis of all economic life and its registration was the basis for taxation. A fully developed 
bureaucratic system is to be seen in the Coptos Decrees issued by King Pepi II at the end 
of the 6th Dynasty. The complexity of the administrative system is illustrated by these 
decrees exempting the temple of Min at Coptos and its staff from taxation and temporary 
labor for the State. They mention different offices and branches of the administration, all 
of which are involved in tax collection and levying the corvee. They show how different 
bureaus had to cooperate and control each other. On one side, there are the offices of the 
central administration represented by the vizier and his deputy in Upper Egypt, the 
overseer of Upper Egypt; they gave the directives. On the other side, there are the 
regional officials, the nomarchs and their staff. To fulfill their duties, the assistance was 
needed of offices concerned with registration and of document departments, where land 
and people were registered. 

Land, and people attached to the land, are the basic economic resources of the country. 
Their registration and control was the basic element of administrative work throughout 
Egyptian history. This was the starting point for its organization. The administration was 
responsible for seeing that a certain amount of Egypt's production and productivity could 
be used for and by the king, i.e. the state. It was necessary to take field measurements 
every year, due to the different heights of the Nile inundation, and to calculate the 
resulting assessments of revenues. Transfer of property, such as possessions or servants, 
had to be testified by local officials, according to documents from the late Middle 
Kingdom. It was important to register the right owner, even in the case of servants, who 
could replace their master when he was asked for corvee labor. Agricultural products, 
with or without processing, form the basis for payment of governmental employees at 
every level: officers, people serving in the army, workers working on the king's tomb and 
other important projects or in workshops, and so on. Those people forced to do temporary 
work for the state had to be "paid" as well. Goods were used, as well as gold, for trade 

Entries A-Z 131 

with foreign countries. This trade was not done by private merchants, but by the king's 

A great deal of Egypt's economic production was controlled by the government; the 
importance of private production was restricted to local markets. The main workshops 
and dockyards were supervised by the treasury or attached to other institutions, such as 
the temples, which played an important role as administrative and economic institutions 
during the New Kingdom. The workshops of the temple of Amen-Re at Karnak, 
supervised by the treasury department of the temple, are well known from documents of 
that period. A representation in a Theban tomb shows craftsmen of the Karnak temple 
producing chariots and weapons. 

Temples were administrative institutions normally belonging to the local level of 
administration. Institutionally, they always were independent from the local or regional 
civil administration. At certain times, however, a nomarch could be both head of the civil 
administration and at the same time head of the temple administration as "overseer of 
priests." Priests acted as the king's representatives when they performed the daily ritual 
in the temple. Temple endowments constituted the material basis for the daily cult. Such 
endowments included agricultural land and other types of real estate given by the king to 
the god. In temple workshops, different kinds of articles were manufactured. Both 
agricultural and manufactured products could be used as payment for priests and other 
temple functionaries. Temples were economically self-sufficient institutions run by the 
high priest, who was a technocrat rather than a theologian. According to the growth of 
endowments, a growth of temple administration can be seen during the New Kingdom. 
Great temples, like that at Karnak, became the wealthiest property holders in Egypt 
beside the king. They had fully developed administrations similar to that of the state, with 
their own departments of treasury, granary and work. It seems that the right to collect 
taxes was delegated to them by the central government as well. 

Expeditions to mining areas, quarries or building projects for national welfare were 
normally organized by the national department of work. In the New Kingdom, they were 
sometimes delegated to administrative institutions of local level or to the army. These 
projects comprised building the king's tomb, temples, fortifications, dams and channels, 
which were used not only for transportation but also, from the end of the third 
millennium BC, for irrigation. 

As well as a technical staff with special training and experience, there were clerks 
attached to each project to control the workers. They had to register their presence or 
absence; even the reason why they were absent was sometimes written down. They 
registered the distribution of tools and material to avoid abuse, supervised the work and 
saw to the provisioning of the labor force. The best information about these procedures is 
from Ramesside documents discovered at Deir el-Medina, where lived the community of 
workmen who were responsible for the king's tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Western 

In the Old and Middle Kingdoms there was usually only one officer under the king, 
the vizier, who exercised supreme authority in the country in most of the departments. 
During the Middle Kingdom the office of the treasurer became one of the most important 
offices, even being equal to the vizier in some respects. Under the Hyksos kings (15th 
Dynasty), the treasurer replaced the vizier as head of the administration. Later, during the 
New Kingdom, the office of treasurer lost some of its prominence and the office of vizier 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 132 

was divided. At least from the times of Tuthmose III, there were regularly two viziers, 
one for Upper Egypt and one for Lower Egypt and the northern part of the Nile Valley. 
Each of these viziers was subordinate to the king only, and had his own bureaucracy at 
his disposal. At the end of the New Kingdom, the high priest of Karnak seems to have 
taken over the responsibilities of the Upper Egyptian vizier. 

The authority of the vizier was normally restricted to Egypt itself. He was responsible 
for what the Egyptians called the "House of the King," an expression which was used to 
designate Egypt, or the central administration of the country. As an exception to this rule, 
it seems probable that in the Middle Kingdom, Nubia was under direct control of the 
vizier. In the New Kingdom an independent administration, similar to the adminsitration 
in Egypt, was installed in Nubia under a viceroy, the "King's son of Kush." The viceroy 
of Nubia was responsible directly to the king. His position within the administration and 
his function as head of the executive power can be compared to that of the vizier in the 
mother country. 

In the Old Kingdom and first half of the Middle Kingdom, military affairs were an 
administrative duty organized by persons belonging to the civil administration. There was 
no difference in the titles held by persons responsible for military campaigns and those 
responsible for non-military campaigns, such as trade and mining expeditions. Members 
of the civil bureaucracy, such as nomarchs but also overseers of priests, led military 
contingents on such campaigns. In the second half of the Middle Kingdom a standing 
army came into existence, and the situation was changed. The army was an independent 
part of the state, not controlled by the civil administration or the vizier. A separate 
military administration was created, headed by the "great overseer of the army." 

The principles of Egyptian administrative bureaucracy were established during the Old 
Kingdom. During the long history of Egyptian administration the main principles did not 
really change. Of course new titles and offices were created, sometimes replacing older 
ones. Certain functions were transferred from one office to another. But the overall 
administrative system remained in use until the end of pharaonic times, when under 
Ptolemaic rule a new system was introduced and Greek became the language used for 
administrative purposes. 

See also 

army; Deir el-Medina; kingship; law; nome structure; taxation and conscription; trade, 

Further reading 

Boorn, G.P.F.van den. 1988. The Duties of the Vizier (Studies in Egyptology). London. 

Eyre, C. 1987. Work and the organisation of work in the New Kingdom. In Labor in the Ancient 

Near East, M.A.Powell, ed., 167-221. New Haven, CT. 
Quirke, S. 1990. The Administration of Egypt in the Late Middle Kingdom. New Maiden. 
Strudwick, N. 1985. The Administration of Egypt in the Old Kingdom (Studies in Egyptology). 



Entries A-Z 133 

Aegean peoples 

The Aegean area, which includes the Greek mainland and nearby islands to the south and 
east, was home during the third and second millennia BC to two main groups of people, 
the Minoans and the Mycenaeans. The Minoans, based on the island of Crete, enjoyed a 
prosperous economy dependent on a redistribution system centered on palatial complexes 
at sites such as Knossos, Phaistos, Mallia and Chania. In the mid-second millennium BC, 
the Mycenaeans of the Greek mainland gained ascendancy in the Aegean, extending their 
influence from imposing citadels at Mycenae, Tiryns and elsewhere to sites farther afield 
on the coast of Asia Minor, Rhodes, and as far east as Cyprus and the Levant. Both the 
Minoans and the Mycenaeans looked to the sea for transportation and trading 
opportunities. It is not surprising that during their marine voyages they came into contact 
with Egypt, the dominant power of the eastern Mediterranean at the time. 

It seems likely that there was contact in both directions; that is, Aegean peoples 
traveled and traded in Egypt, and Egyptians ventured into the Aegean. Evidence for this 
contact is documented through archaeological finds of pottery and other artifacts, through 
depictions of Aegean gift-bearers in Theban tombs, and through texts and inscriptions. 

Aegean pottery has been found at several sites in the Nile Valley and also at Marsa 
Matruh on the western coast of Egypt. Minoan pottery appears in Egyptian Middle 
Kingdom contexts, but none is yet known from before the 12th Dynasty. (Middle) 
Minoan sherds from settlement debris have been found at Haraga and Lahun, a planned 
town in the Fayum for the workmen at the pyramid complex of Senusret II. The types of 
Minoan pottery are varied and do not suggest the existence of a specialized trade. 
However, the types of Mycenaean pottery, which is more abundant in Egypt, are 
generally restricted to closed shapes and are usually found in tombs. The two-handled 
spouted vessel, the stirrup jar, is particularly popular in 18th Dynasty contexts and 
suggests an active trade in perfumed oil. 

A rich deposit of Mycenaean pottery of almost 2,000 sherds and a half dozen vessels 
have been recovered in trash dumps near Akhenaten's palace at Tell el-Amarna. Such a 
large deposit in a settlement context is unique in Egypt. Stirrup jars are present, but more 
common is the flask. A few open vessels, such as cups, are also represented. Other sites 
with Mycenaean pottery include Memphis, Gurob, Sedment, Abydos, Thebes, Luxor and 

The appearance of Aegean pottery in datable Egyptian contexts has been very 
important for establishing a chronology for Minoan and Mycenaean pottery styles and for 
Bronze Age sites in Greece. As the understanding of Egyptian chronology is refined and 
as more reliance is placed on Aegean radiocarbon dates, many scholars are now 
attempting to establish new synchronisms. Examinations of radiocarbon dates for the 
eruption of the volcano on the island of Thera (Late Minoan IA period), conventionally 
assigned to circa 1500 BC, suggest that this event actually occurred circa 1625 BC. This 
new high chronology for the pottery periods of the Aegean Bronze Age is now accepted 
by many scholars. 

Carved stone bowls were an early item of exchange between Crete and Egypt. 
Egyptian bowls of Early Dynastic and Old Kingdom date have been found on Crete and 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 134 

were probably instrumental for the beginnings of the Minoan stone vessel industry. A 
(Middle) Minoan stone bowl was found at Lahun. 

It has long been held that the artifacts from the (Late Helladic I) shaft graves at 
Mycenae demonstrate strong Egyptian influence; the gold funerary masks, an inlaid 
"Nilotic" scene on a dagger, and a wooden box decorated with dogs are cited most 
commonly. The idea that Mycenaean chiefs were employed in Egypt as Hyksos 
mercenaries has not been given much credence, although a new higher dating of the shaft 
graves may revive the possibility. 

Of New Kingdom date are several clearly identifiable Egyptian imports in the Aegean. 
In addition to Egyptian, or perhaps in some cases "Egyptianizing" scarabs, tombs in 
Crete have produced several Egyptian alabaster vases, including one with the cartouche 
of Tuthmose III. Fragments of faience plaques inscribed with the cartouche of 
Amenhotep III are known from Mycenae. These plaques may be the result of an official 
diplomatic exchange between the pharaoh of Egypt and the ruler of Mycenae, whose 
power in the Mediterranean was gaining ground at the time. 

Excavations conducted by Manfred Bietak at Tell ed-Dab'a in the eastern Nile Delta 
have yielded fragments of wall paintings which seem to be of Minoan inspiration. The 
site is identified as Avaris, the Hyksos capital. 

A number of early 18th Dynasty tombs of royal officials and noblemen in Thebes 
portray male offering-bearers which seem to be from the Aegean because of their 
costumes and the nature of the gifts they bring. The earliest representations come from 
the tomb of Senmut (TT 71). The men wear short loincloths with a decorated waistband 
of the type seen on Minoan wall paintings. The men's hair hangs down in long locks, 
another Minoan trait. Among the typically Aegean artifacts carried by these men are 
vessels of Vapheio cup shape and a three- or four-handled jar. Perhaps the best known 
representations of Aegeans in Egyptian wall painting are those from the tomb of 
Rekhmire (TT 100), a vizier of Tuthmose III. In this tomb, the figures carry other 
typically Aegean artifacts including conical and animal rhytons. 

The well-known "Miniature Fresco" from Akrotiri, Thera is sometimes mentioned as 
evidence for Egyptian or North African links with the Cyclades because elements of the 
scene look foreign to the Aegean: in particular, a riverscape reminiscent of the Nile and a 
group of dark-skinned, curly-haired warriors. Until more is known about the subject 
matter of Aegean wall painting, this tie remains tenuous. 

The depictions of the Aegeans in Theban tombs are associated with the term "Keftiu," 
which appears in some of the hieroglyphic texts accompanying the paintings. The term 
occurs rarely in Egyptian documents, but appears with greatest frequency in the early 
18th Dynasty. The identification of Keftiu with Crete seems secure, although attempts 
have been made to associate the name with Syria, Phoenicia and Cyprus. "Isles in the 
midst of the sea [great green]" is another term which first appears in the 18th Dynasty 
and may refer to the Aegean area, perhaps Mycenaean Greece in particular. 

An important inscription for the study of relations between Egypt and the Aegean 
appears on a statue base at the funerary temple of Amenhotep III at Kom el-Hetan. The 
base was erected with at least four other bases, each of which is carved with a series of 
toponyms. The place-names on the other bases refer to areas of Syro-Palestine and 
Mesopotamia, while those on the fifth base seem to refer to the Aegean. The list strongly 

Entries A-Z 135 

suggests an Egyptian awareness of the leading centers of the Aegean, and may even 
reflect a specific itinerary, perhaps for a diplomatic mission. 

Groups from the Aegean have also been connected with the notorious "Sea Peoples," 
who wrought havoc at the end of the New Kingdom in Egypt and probably played a role 
in the general collapse of the other great Late Bronze societies of the eastern 
Mediterranean. Carved reliefs and texts from the funerary temple of Ramesses III at 
Medinet Habu document the Sea Peoples' raids on Egypt. Aegean peoples, perhaps 
Mycenaean refugees, may have joined ranks with these marauding bands, which seem to 
have settled eventually in areas as far apart as Palestine and Sardinia. The archaeological 
evidence suggests that 

Aegean contacts with Egypt increased over time. As the two regions grew more 
complex socially and economically, their ties grew closer. Initial contact with Crete was 
sporadic, and involved the exchange of pottery and stone vessels. Much of this trade may 
have been indirect, through the hands of other merchants of the eastern Mediterranean, 
whether from Cyprus, Syria or other Levantine centers. Later, items of greater prestige 
were exchanged between the two areas. Egypt may have been the Aegean's source for 
many valuable, exotic raw materials such as gold, alabaster, amethyst, carnelian, spices, 
ebony and ostrich eggshell. 

Around 1450 BC, Minoan primacy gave way to a strong Mycenaean presence in the 
Aegean and eastern Mediterranean, at about the same time that Tuthmose III re- 
established Egyptian dominance in Syro-Palestine. This change is reflected in the 
evidence from Egypt, where Mycenaean pottery becomes more common; little Minoan 
pottery is found after the Second Intermediate Period. The Mycenaean vessels, usually 
found in tombs, are of a type that suggests there was a specialized trade in perfumed olive 

Trade mechanisms of the ancient Mediterranean are currently a major topic of study, 
and the evidence from Egypt and the Aegean offers fruitful data for testing hypotheses 
about the roles of private entrepreneurs and governing states in organizing commerce. 
Theban tomb paintings and the faience plaques from Mycenae suggest that exchanges 
also occurred on a diplomatic level, and that political alliances or at least reciprocal 
acknowledgment of spheres of influence may have come about. The fact that there is very 
little Minoan pottery in Egypt at the time of the Theban tomb paintings has suggested to 
some that commercial activities and diplomatic exchanges were separate phenomena. 

An illustrated papyrus, from Tell el-Amarna and now in the British Museum, provides 
evidence for another kind of contact between the Aegean and Egypt. It seems to depict 
Mycenaean soldiers fighting on the side of the pharaoh, either as mercenaries or allies. 
The papyrus, thought to be connected with the cult of Akhenaten, shows two rows of 
warriors wearing short, spotted (perhaps ox-hide) tunics and what appear to be boar's 
tusk helmets. This pictorial evidence, combined with the large concentration of 
Mycenaean pottery at Tell el-Amarna, could suggest that a group of Aegeans actually 
resided at the royal city. 

Contact between the Aegean and Egypt came to an end not long after the raids of the 
Sea Peoples, around 1200 BC. For a couple of centuries, Greece turned inward with little 
overseas contact. When international exchange began again, in the tenth century BC, the 
ties were primarily with the Levant. By the seventh century BC contact with Egypt was 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 136 

once more securely established, as is demonstrated by the important Greek mercantile 
settlements at Naukratis and Tell Defenna. 

See also 

Sea Peoples; Tell el-Amarna, city; trade, foreign 

Further reading 

Cline, E. 1987. Amenhotep III and the Aegean: a reassessment of Egypto-Aegean relations in the 

14th Century B.C. Orientalia 56:1-36. 
Helck, W. 1979. Die Beziehungen Agyptens und Vorderasiens zur Agdis bis ins 7. Jahrhundert v. 

Chr. Darmstadt. 
Kemp, B.J., and R.Merrillees. 1980. Minoan Pottery in Second Millennium Egypt. Mainz. 
Manning, S. 1988. The Bronze Age eruption of Thera: absolute dating, Aegean chronology and 

Mediterranean cultural interrelations. JMA 1:17-82. 
Merrillees, R. 1972. Aegean Bronze Age relations with Egypt. AJA 76:281-94. 
Muhly, J.D. 1991. Egypt, the Aegean and Late Bronze Age chronology in the eastern 

Mediterranean: a review article. JMA 4: 235-47. 
Parkinson, R., and L.Schofield. 1993. Mycenaeans meet the Egyptians at last. The Art Newspaper 

Strange, J. 1980. Caphtor/Keftiu: A New Investigation (Acta Theologica Danica 14). Leiden. 
Wachsmann, S. 1987. Aegeans in Theban Tombs (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 20). Leuven. 
Warren, P., and V.Hankey. 1989. Aegean Bronze Age Chronology. Bristol. 


agriculture, introduction of 

The earliest evidence of agriculture in Egypt dates to about 5000 BC and consists of 
traces of crops and livestock found at modest camps in the Fayum Depression and the 
Delta. From these humble beginnings, farming and village life quickly developed and 
became well-established by roughly 4100 BC in Lower Egypt and by 3800 BC in Upper 


The shift from hunting and gathering to food production was one of the most 
important changes in human history, and has accordingly been the focus of intensive 
research. Unfortunately, because Egypt has a very meager archaeological record from 
this period, probably less is known of the transition here than in other regions. 

There are very few sites from the crucial period of 5000 to 4000 BC when farming 
was developing in Egypt, and almost none from the sixth millennium BC when farming 
was apparently first introduced. There are very few early farming villages and even fewer 
sites showing the transitional stages between foraging and farming. In addition, there is 

Entries A-Z 137 

no archaeological record of Egypt's last hunter-gatherers. The last forager sites date to 
800-1,000 years before the first farmers. 

It is likely that much of the archaeological record has been buried under Nile 
sediments or destroyed through millennia of farming and village life. Indeed, all of the 
known early farming sites are located in marginal areas, primarily the desert. As a result, 
the archaeological record is not only meager but also skewed. However, the trends and 
patterns these sites reveal are probably representative. 

The crops and their origins 

The transition to farming in Egypt did not entail an independent origin of agriculture. 
Rather, Egyptians adopted a complex of crops, including emmer wheat, barley, peas, 
lentils and flax, that were domesticated in southwest Asia between 9000 and 7000 BC. 
Over time other domesticates were added to the economy, including some indigenous 
African crops, but the Near Eastern complex remained the core of Egypt's highly 
productive system of agriculture through pharaonic times. 

Emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum SchiibL), one of several wheats domesticated in 
south-west Asia, is now nearly forgotten as a food except in a few remote areas, but is 
cultivated by breeders for genetic material. Emmer is considered a "primitive" wheat 
because the grain is tightly encased in a hull. Upon threshing the grains do not separate 
freely from the hulls. The cereal head breaks into spikelets which must be pounded and 
then winnowed or sieved to separate the grains from the hulls. In contrast, in the more 
highly evolved wheats, such as durum (Triticum durum Desf.), the grains fall cleanly 
away during threshing. Perhaps because durum was easier to process, it became a major 
cereal in the ancient world. In Egypt, however, emmer remained virtually the only wheat 
until Roman rule established durum as the main cereal crop. Although there are rare finds 
of durum, it played no role in the Predynastic or Dynastic economy. Why durum was 
ignored in Egypt, while it flourished elsewhere, is a mystery. 

In pharaonic Egypt, emmer was used primarily to make bread and sometimes beer, the 
staples of the Egyptian diet. The only evidence for Neolithic uses are a few coarse loaves 
of bread found in graves and settlements. 

Two other wheats have been mistakenly associated with ancient Egypt. Einkorn 
(Triticum monococcum L.), a primitive wheat, has been misidentified in a few cereal 
finds. Spelt (Triticum spelta L.), a hulled wheat popular in northern Europe, is often cited 
as an Egyptian cereal but there is no evidence that it was ever grown in Egypt. The 
confusion may stem from a careless translation of the German term for hulled wheats. 

Several types of barley were domesticated in the ancient Near East. Egyptians raised 
mainly hulled, six-row barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), which is well adapted to the hot, dry 
low lands of the Near East, but two-row types (Hordeum distichon L.) have also 
occasionally been found. Barley has a shorter growing season than wheat and a higher 
tolerance for poor, dry soils and saline conditions. In pharaonic Egypt, barley was used 
primarily for making beer but was also sometimes made into bread and used as fodder. 
Neolithic Egyptians may well have brewed beer and could also have used barley as a 
porridge or in soups, stews and breads. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 138 

Field peas (Pisum sativum L.) and lentils (Lens culinaris Medik-) were grown through 
pharaonic times, as evidenced by archaeological remains, but they are rarely mentioned 
in texts and never appear in tomb art or as offerings. Both lentils and peas are used 
primarily in soups and stews, and were probably prepared this way by Neolithic 

Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) was cultivated for its long stem fibers, which were 
woven into linen, and for the seeds which were pressed for oil, used in cooking and 
lighting. There are specimens of flax fibers from early farming villages but no clear 
evidence that the seeds were used as oil, although it is unlikely that the seeds were 

While Egypt's crops were Asian, the farming techniques were African. Ecological 
conditions in the Nile Valley were strikingly different from those in southwest Asia 
where crops were planted in the fall before the winter rains. In Egypt seeds were sown in 
October after the flood waters drained, a technique practiced in some other African river 
basins as well. 

By chance, the Near Eastern crops and Nile floods were perfectly matched. In 
contrast, the indigenous African cereals were not suitable for the Egyptian Nile Valley as 
they were summer crops. Sorghum was not cultivated in Egypt until Graeco-Roman 
times or later, when water-lifting techniques made it possible to irrigate fields located on 
high levees in the summer. 

The Near Eastern crops probably came to Egypt from the Levant across the Sinai. The 
oldest agricultural sites are in the north and the shortest route from the Levant is across 
the Sinai. It is not clear how crops were introduced, but trade seems more probable than 
migration. The one known Delta Neolithic site, Merimde Beni-salame, bears no 
resemblance to sites in the Levant, but pottery from its oldest levels is similar to 
contemporary Levantine pottery, suggesting contacts across the Sinai. Various artifacts 
from the Fayum and Merimde also are similar, suggesting contacts among Neolithic 
communities as well. 

The archaeological record 

The scant archaeological record suggests that crops were first cultivated casually by 
people who were still essentially hunter-gatherers. The earliest sites are little more than 
hunter-gatherer camps with scatters of debris and hearths, and sometimes small pits, but 
no evidence of permanent structures. Within a relatively short time, however, settlements 
appeared with signs of more substantial occupation including structures such as pens, 
windbreaks and storage facilities, particularly granaries, and in some cases dwellings. At 
the same time, the evidence for hunting diminished, while signs of herding increased. The 
Fayum sites, the oldest known sites with remains of domesticates, span a period of 5200- 
4500 BC. Except for the presence of crude pottery and traces of livestock and crops, the 
sites could be mistaken for forager camps. Situated along the shores of what was once a 
large freshwater lake, teeming with aquatic resources, the sites were primarily seasonal 
camps used by people who hunted, gathered and raised small quantities of crops and 

Entries A-Z 139 

The evidence for the Fayum crops came from a remarkable chance discovery of a 
basket-lined storage pit on a ridge above one of the sites which led to another 164 
granaries nearby, each about lm wide. Traces of emmer wheat, six-row and two-row 
hulled barley and flax were found in seven pits while wild plants were found in others. 
Radiocarbon dates derived from charred grain in two of the pits averaged 5145±155 BC. 

Over the course of its lifespan, the Fayum Neolithic culture changed little. There was 
no shift to real farming villages, as occurred in the Nile Valley. Why the Fayum cultures 
remained unchanged is not known, but some scholars speculate that the conditions of the 
Fayum Depression did not encourage full reliance on farming. 

At Merimde Beni-salame, located on the western edge of the Delta, successive 
occupations (circa 5000-4100 BC) showed a rapid shift to a sedentary farming village. 
The oldest phase is similar to the Fayum sites, with a small, sparse occupation and few 
signs of farming except the domesticates: small quantities of emmer wheat, hulled six- 
row barley, lentils, peas, flax, and a possible free-threshing wheat. But with the second 
phase, Merimde became a substantial permanent settlement with storage facilities. 

By the late fifth millennium BC, the same shift to a farming economy was occurring 
elsewhere in northern Egypt. Near Helwan, the oldest of the el-Omari sites, dated by a 
single radiocarbon date to 4110±260 BC, showed many of the same features as found in 
Merimde's final phases, with extensive storage facilities as well as domesticates, 
including six-row barley, emmer and flax. 

Farming appears to have gradually moved south up the Nile; the earliest evidence in 
Upper Egypt is from the Matmar-Badari district. The oldest phase here, the Badarian 
(4400-4000 BC), showed scant traces of settlement, comparable to Merimde's Phase I, 
along with remains of emmer wheat, six-row barley and flax capsules. The succeeding 
Nagada I phase (4000-3600 BC) showed more substantial settlements with a shift from 
underground storage pits to large, above-ground facilities. In addition to the plants in 
Badarian levels, lentils, vetchling (Lathyrus sativus), another Near Eastern crop, and 
fruits of sycamore fig were found, although they were probably not new at this time. 
They may have been missed by the small samples from earlier levels. 

Farther south in the Armant-Gurna area, farming appeared slightly later, circa 4000 
BC. Eleven sites, dated to roughly 4000-3600 BC, followed a pattern similar to the other 
early Nile Valley farming settlements. While the earliest occupation left few traces, 
succeeding occupations were more substantial with evidence of permanent settlement. 
Plant remains included emmer wheat, six-row barley, lentils and wild plants. 

Moving farther south to the Nagada region, the earliest evidence for farming is again 
later, roughly 3900 BC, but by this point farming seems to be well-established. While 
these settlements, which date to the Nagada I phase, are modest hamlets, there is ample 
evidence of a farming economy, including abundant remains of emmer wheat, six-row 
hulled barley and flax, a large number of field weeds, and very little evidence of hunting 
or reliance on wild foods. 

How farming traveled up the Nile valley is unknown, but it appears to have been a 
transfer of ideas and domesticates, moving gradually from north to south, rather than 
migrations of people. The regional variation seen in lithics, architecture and settlement 
plans suggests that these were all unique regions with their own histories. Migrants, on 
the other hand, would probably have established settlements that were similar. However, 
there was trade and communication between regions, as evidenced by similarities in 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 140 

ceramics. It is clear that Near Eastern crops were introduced some time before 5000 BC 
from the Levant and adopted by hunter-gatherers. There remains much to learn about the 
transformation to full-fledged farming economies throughout the Nile Valley. 

See also 

el-Badari district Predynastic sites; brewing and baking; Fayum, Neolithic and 
Predynastic sites; Helwan; Nagada (Naqada); Neolithic and Predynastic stone tools; 
Neolithic cultures, overview; el-Omari; plants, wild; pottery, prehistoric; Predynastic 
period, overview; subsistence and diet in Dynastic Egypt; Thebes, el-Tarif, prehistoric 

Further reading 

Caton Thompson, G., and E.W.Gardner. 1934. The Desert Fayum. London. 

Eiwanger, J. 1984. Merimde Benisalame I: Die Funde der Urgeschichte (AVDAIK 47). Mainz. 

Hassan, F.A. 1985. A radiocarbon chronology of Neolithic and Predynastic sites in Upper Egypt 

and the Delta. AAR 3:95-116. 
Wetterstrom, W. 1993. Foraging and farming in Egypt: the transition from hunting and gathering to 

horticulture in the Nile Valley. In The Archaeology of Africa: Food, Metal and Towns, 

P.Sinclair, T.Shaw, B.Andah and A.Okpoko, eds, 165-226. London. 



Akhmim, the ancient Ipu or Khent-Min, called "Khemmis" by the Greeks and "Khemin" 
by the Copts, is an ancient town on the Nile's east bank, opposite Sohag (26°34' N, 
31°45' E). The chief deity of Akhmim is the fertility god Min who, possessing powers of 
regeneration, is an important national god venerated throughout ancient Egyptian history. 
The claim of the cosmographer Leo Africanus (fifteenth-sixteenth centuries AD) that 
Akhmim was the oldest town in all Egypt is highly uncertain, but archaeological evidence 
proves that the town was already important during the Predynastic period and remained 
so throughout the centuries to the present day. Most of what we know about ancient 
Akhmim comes from the town's cemeteries. 

Two cemeteries dating to the Old Kingdom, el-Hawawish on the east bank of the Nile 
and el-Hagarsa on the west bank, have been systematically excavated and recorded by the 
Australian Centre for Egyptology. El-Hawawish contains 884 rock-cut tombs, making it 
one of the most extensive Old Kingdom provincial cemeteries. Although most of its 
tombs are undecorated, many of these once possessed inscribed stone stelae now located, 
with other artifacts such as statues and coffins, in museums throughout the world. About 
sixty tombs have retained most or part of their scenes and inscriptions; they enable the 

Entries A-Z 141 

study of the development of art, architecture, administration and other fields in this 
province through at least ten successive generations, or some 400 years in the latter part 
of the Old Kingdom. 

One of the earliest governors of the province, Memi (late 5th Dynasty), decorated the 
walls of his tomb with twenty-four engaged statues, representing the tomb owner and 
occasionally his wife, cut into the native rock. In order to protect the valuable 
possessions, which were no doubt buried with a rich man like Memi, a brilliant 
architectural scheme was designed. A long sloping passage leads down to a burial 
chamber which has the appearance of a true and final burial place. However, in the corner 
is cut a vertical shaft, originally filled and concealed, which descends for an additional 
7m leading to a second, identical burial chamber where Memi was actually interred. 
Despite the architectural ingenuity, this tomb's fate was no better than that of the great 
majority of others throughout Egypt. 

As Governor of the South, Hem-Min (tomb M43) was probably the most powerful 
man in Upper Egypt at the end of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th Dynasty (circa 2350 
BC); at Akhmim, he was positioned in the center of the area under his jurisdiction. Hem- 
Min had an ambitious design for a single-roomed chapel (20. 2x9. 2m), with a ceiling 
3.9m high that was to be carried on two rows of five pillars each. As his chapel was 
excavated into the heart of the mountain, the quality of the rock deteriorated, preventing 
him from leaving standing pillars. Large areas of rock from the ceiling then collapsed, 
totally spoiling the appearance of this magnificent chapel. The decoration was 
subsequently finished on a much reduced scale depicting three long registers of offering 
bearers, spear fishing, an offering table and dancing. Although incomplete and 
fragmentary, these scenes show great artistic merit, particularly in regard to the detail 
depicted in fish, birds, baskets and so on. 

One of the most remarkable features of the governing family at Akhmim is their 
extraordinary love of art. A governor named Shepsipu-Min left a surprising inscription in 
the tomb (G95) of his father and predecessor, Nehewet, stating that he was the artist who 
decorated the tomb. There is no reason to doubt his claim, but no other man in such a 
position in ancient Egypt claimed to be an artist, and the paintings in Nehewet's tomb 
certainly corroborate his son's artistic talent. 

The following generations of governors were perhaps not so gifted artistically, but in 
order to maintain the same high standard they employed probably one of the most 
exceptional artists of the time, Seni. He decorated two tombs, those of Kheni (H24) and 
Tjeti-iker (H26), belonging to father and son. Unlike most Egyptian artists who remained 
anonymous, Seni left the following inscription in the tomb of Tjeti-iker: "the painter Seni 
says: it was I who decorated the tomb of the Count Kheni, and it was I also who 
decorated this tomb, I being alone." 

The scenes in the two tombs are similar and, luckily, wherever part of a scene was 
damaged in one tomb, it was preserved in the other. Thus between the two tombs, we 
have a complete record of the work of one of the most talented Egyptian artists of the Old 
Kingdom. While following the general traditions of Egyptian art, in which the artist drew 
what he knew rather than what he saw, such as a frontal eye on a profile face and a 
frontal shoulder on a profile body, Seni did not lack originality. For example, in his 
treatment of a hand holding a spear in the spear-fishing scene, the foreshortening of the 
fingers is both unusual and very successful. All the scenes are painted on mud plaster, 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 142 

and these depict various aspects of the daily life of the owner, including those in which 
he participated and those he watched and enjoyed. Fishing, fowling, harvesting, various 
workshop activities, sports and entertainments are represented. Although occasionally 
depicted in other Upper Egyptian cemeteries, watching bull-fighting seems to be a 
particularly favored form of entertainment at Akhmim. 

The importance of a tomb should not only be judged by its richness and size; some of 
the poorer, smaller tombs are equally informative. One of the later tombs of the cemetery, 
belonging to Rehu (BA17), is small and exhibits neither grand architecture nor a high 
style of art. However, dating to the very end of the Old Kingdom, the biographical 
inscription of the owner is of inestimable value for the understanding of this dark and 
little-known period. The inscriptions, as well as the scenes, were cheaply and hastily 
painted on mud plaster and reflect the poor workmanship of the time, but the information 
presented about war, famine and difficult conditions is of great value. 

From the same period as the tombs of el-Hawawish, those of el-Hagarsa are generally 
smaller and belong to officials of lesser status. The discovery there of two tombs, one 
belonging to an Overseer of the Army named Wahi and the second belonging to a 
Treasurer of the King of Lower Egypt named Hefefi, throws important new light on the 
last years of the Old Kingdom, before its collapse around 2200 BC. The undisturbed 
burial chamber of Hefefi contained six mummies in coffins belonging to one family, men 
and women, forming three generations, including two children, four and seven years old. 
Complete medical and DNA examinations currently in progress are adding to our 
information on family relationships in ancient Egypt and on the results of the probable 
civil war which erupted at that time between the northern and southern parts of Upper 
Egypt. Akhmim was apparently at the borderline between the two warring factions. 

With the exception of a stela belonging to a provincial governor named Intef, nothing 
is known about Akhmim in the Middle Kingdom. More is known from the New 
Kingdom; King Ay (the successor of Tutankhamen) originated from Akhmim. As a 
proud native of this town, Ay restored its temples and erected a new rock-cut temple for 
Min at el-Salamuni following the end of the Amarna period and the return to polytheistic 
religion. Most of his building projects were assigned to his architect, Nakht-Min, another 
citizen of Akhmim. Yuya and Tuya, the parents of Queen Tiye (wife of Amenhotep III) 
are also known to have come from Akhmim. Excavations in the town of Akhmim by the 
Egyptian Antiquities Organization have uncovered a temple built by Ramesses II. Large 
statues of the king and of his daughter-wife, Merytamen, were found and part of the 
layout of the temple has been discerned. Whether this was the famous temple, the so- 
called "Birba" referred to by the Arab historians, remains uncertain. 

Of particular interest is the recently investigated large tomb of Sennedjem at Awlad 
Azzaz. The owner was overseer of tutors, possibly of Tutankhamen, whose cartouches 
occur in a number of places in the tomb. The human figures are depicted in the Amarna 
style, but modifications to the original reliefs show an attempt to eliminate the Amarna 
features. Although fragmentary, the scenes in this tomb include important themes like 
Tutankhamen in his chariot and a representation of the "window of appearances." The 
tomb casts some new and important light on the leading personages in Egypt during the 
tumultuous closing years of the 18th Dynasty. 

Akhmim seems to have maintained its importance during the Late period and 
throughout the Ptolemaic dominance of Egypt, when the town was called "Panopolis," 

Entries A-Z 143 

i.e. the city of Pan, the Greek god who was identified with Min. In the earlier centuries 
AD, Christianity was introduced in Egypt, resulting in conflict with the old pagan 
traditions in certain centers like Akhmim. During the Roman period the Egyptian 
Christians (Copts) were persecuted, with this movement reaching its peak under the 
Roman emperor Diocletian. Many Christians escaped to the surrounding mountains, 
living in ancient tombs after replastering 

Figure 10 The mummy of Hefefi (from 
el-Hagarsa) in its wooden coffin 

the walls to cover what they considered to be scenes of pagan idolatry. Shortly 
afterwards, however, Christianity became the official religion of the Empire and many 
monasteries were built at Akhmim. The most important of these is the "white 
monastery," also called the monastery of St Shenute, which was constructed in the fourth 
century AD, reusing many decorated stones from ancient Egyptian temples. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 144 

Akhmim is an important archaeological site which preserves valuable information on 
Egyptian history during the pharaonic, classical, Coptic, Islamic and more recent periods. 
While its cemeteries at the edges of the desert have now received scholarly attention, the 
original settlement itself remains, as the majority of others in Egypt, mostly buried under 
the modern town. 

See also 

Old Kingdom provincial tombs; representational evidence, Old Kingdom private tombs 

Further reading 

Kanawati, N. 1980-92. The Rock Tombs of el-Hawawish: The Cemetery of Akhmim, 10 vols. 


. 1992. Akhmim in the Old Kingdom 1: Chronology and Administration. Sydney. 

Kanawati, N., et al. 1993-5. The Tombs of el-Hagarsa, 3 vols. Sydney. 

McNally, S. 1993. Excavations in Akhmim, Egypt: Continuity and Change in City Life from Late 

Antiquity to the Present. Oxford. 


el-Alamein, Marina 

The coastal region between Alexandria and Marsa Matruh has been little investigated by 
archaeologists. One of the few known sites from this region is Marina, located 6km east 
of el-Alamein (30°50' N, 28°57' E). 

The ruins of the ancient town were accidentally discovered during building 
construction, and in 1986 the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (EAO) began salvage 
excavations at the site. Shortly afterwards the Polish Center of Archaeology in Cairo, 
headed by Wiktor A.Daszewski, began systematic excavations in the western part of the 
site and conducted a survey and documentation of all the monuments. 

The ancient site is located between the slope of an ancient beach and a lagoon, 
separated from the open sea by a narrow strip of sand and the modern Alexandria-Marsa 
Matruh highway. It extends over an area 1km in length east-west. In the lower (northern) 
part of the site near the sea is the town where several buildings were partly cleared of 
sand by the EAO. The upper part of the site was extensively used as a cemetery. 

Fieldwork by the Polish Mission was concentrated in the cemetery, where a series of 
important discoveries were made. Some well preserved tombs were uncovered, of four 
different types: 

1 Trenches hewn in the bedrock and covered with limestone slabs. 

2 Tombs cut in the bedrock with superstructures in the shape of step pyramids. 

Entries A-Z 145 

3 Tombs of cubic structures built on the rock surface with two or four loculi, frequently 

surmounted by funerary monuments, such as a column or sarcophagus. Investigation 
of the remains of Tomb 1C determined that the loculus was covered by a structure 
imitating a huge sarcophagus. Parallels to this type of tomb are found in Turkey and 
Cyrenaica. Another tomb (IF) contained two loculi and was surmounted by a huge 
pillar decorated with two capitals in the so-called "Nabatean" style. The upper 
(smaller) capital stood on a short base which rested on the lower (larger) capital. 

4 Hypogea consisting of superstructures with monumental entrances which lead to 

vaulted staircases with burial chambers hewn in the bedrock. Large vertical shafts 
provided the burial chambers with air and light. The chambers were designed with 
rock-cut benches, loculi and stone altars on the floor. 

These four groups of tombs can be dated from the late second century BC (Groups 1 and 
2) to the late first century AD (Group 4). The tombs of Group 3 can be assigned to the 
early first century AD. Both Alexandrian and local traditions are seen in these tombs. 

The Polish excavations yielded a vast collection of finds, including lamps, glass 
vessels and pottery from Cyprus, the Aegean, Asia Minor and Italy. Several sculptures 
were also found. Among the most remarkable discoveries were a lead coffin in Tomb 
1GH and mummies in one of the side chambers of Tomb 6. Like the well-known Fayum 
examples, the mummies from Marina have portraits painted on wooden panels. 

In 1988 the joint Polish-Egyptian Preservation Mission initiated a restoration program. 
Three monuments in the necropolis (Tombs 1, IB, 1C), toppled by an earthquake, were 
restored. Several other excavated tombs were reinforced and repaired. 

Figure 11 El-Alamein, Marina, 
monument and superstructure of Tomb 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 146 

In the area of the town a series of buildings, both private and public, were excavated by 
the EAO. Several large houses (Nos. 1, 2, 9) located in the central part of the site were 
found surprisingly well preserved. They were designed with rooms usually grouped 
around one or two peristyle courtyards. Each house was provided with vaulted 
underground cisterns and a well-developed system of aqueducts. Fragments of 
architectural decoration, such as moldings, cornices, capitals and so on, were found in the 
debris. In some cases, painted plastering was still preserved on the walls. 

In the central part of the site, a rho/os-shaped bath was investigated by the EAO. Some 
recently discovered structures located close to the lagoon (Nos. 12, 13, 14) seem to have 
served as storehouses. The finds from these excavations were also plentiful, and included 
various lamps, coins, statues and pots. 

Based on these finds, the chronology indicates that most of the excavated structures 
date to the first-third centuries AD. The ancient town must have been a very prosperous 
community. A wide range of imported pottery, particularly amphorae, suggests 
flourishing trade relations with the entire Mediterranean. 

The settlement at Marina was probably destroyed by an earthquake in the late third 
century AD, but was partially inhabited again in the fifth-sixth centuries AD. A small 
basilica church (No. 15) uncovered in the eastern sector by the EAO is the best evidence 
of this occupation. No traces of any later (Islamic) occupation were found. 

See also 

Alexandria; Apis; Marea; Marsa Matruh; Taposiris Magna 



The Mediterranean port city of Alexandria was established by Alexander the Great in 332 
BC at the northwestern edge of the Nile Delta (31°12' N, 29°53' E), in the Egyptian nome 
of Western Harpoon. The city's location was strategic, on a rocky strip separating Lake 
Mareotis from the Mediterranean Sea, opposite the small islet of Pharos just off the coast; 
it lay at the crossroads between Europe, the Near East and Africa. The small Egyptian 
settlement of Ra-kedet, or Rakhotis in Greek, already existed at the site. 

The plan of the new city was the work of the royal architect Deinocrates of Rhodes; it 
resembled a chlamys, a Greek cloak, spread along the sandy coast. It was 30 stadia long 
(5km) and 7-8 wide (1.5km). The city developed along a regular grid of wide streets set 
at right angles. The main street, sometimes referred to as the processional road or platea, 
ran lengthwise from east to west, being an extension of the road to Canopus to the east. 
Two main crossroads running north-south divided the city into three equal parts and may 
have separated the city's three main nationalities: Greeks, Jews and Egyptians. The 
districts, whose borders remain unknown, were given the names of the first letters of the 
Greek alphabet. Other local names in use included Rhakotis (for the Egyptian quarter), 

Entries A-Z 147 

Brucheion (for the royal quarter), Copron Mons, Neapolis and Necropolis. Walls 
encircled the city. To the east and west of the fortifications were gardens and necropoli. 

Potable water was supplied to Alexandria by a canal from the westernmost branch of 
the Nile. The island of Pharos was connected to the mainland by a pier-bridge (about 1km 
long), called the "Heptastadion." On the island a lighthouse was constructed, presumably 
by Sostratos of Knidos; the tall tower was to become a symbol of the city. The royal 
district (Brucheion), together with the port and necropolis of the rulers (Ptolemaion), was 
located on the coast in the vicinity of Cape Lochias, at the end of the eastern of the two 
chief crosswise streets. Thanks to the underwater investigations carried out in 1996 by the 
French, the ancient coastline of the eastern port and Cape Lochias have been surveyed 
and mapped. The city ports lay on either side of the Heptastadion. The eastern or Great 
Port extended up to Cape Timonium. In the western port, called Eunostos, the canal from 
the Nile and Lake Mareotis emptied into the port basin, called Kibotos. 

Nothing is known of the location and appearance of the city's main buildings, the 
commercial stores, docks, agora, museum (library), gymnasium, theater, royal necropolis 
with the tomb of Alexander, and numerous temples. The location of the lighthouse, 
Serapeum, Caesareum, stadium, hippodrome, temples of Serapis and Isis, and the 
Thesmophorium are known. Even the numerous tombs constantly being discovered on 
the outskirts of the city do not have their above-ground structures preserved (except for 
some unrecorded ruins in the Wardian district). 

This picture of the city is known from the ancient sources: Strabo (VXI1, 8), Diodorus 
(XVII, 52, 5), Achilles Tatius, Ammianus Marcellinus, Pseudo-Callisthenes and 
numerous other texts concern life in the city, its appearance and historical events. In the 
first three centuries of its existence, that is, until the fall of the Ptolemies, Alexandria's 
location near the wealth of Egypt and its qualities as a modern city and port made the 
capital with its population of one million people one of the leading cities in the part of the 
eastern Mediterranean dominated by the Greeks. 

The Roman period was a time of repeated destructions and gradual decline. This 
started in 32 BC with the conquest of Alexandria by Julius Caesar, the burning of the 
fleet, part of the port district and probably the library. The defeat of Cleopatra VII and 
Antony by Octavian made the city and country dependent on Rome. The rebellion in AD 
116 of the Alexandrian Jews was overcome by Trajan and ended in the destruction of the 
western, Jewish district of the city. Presumably as a result, the chief eastern cross-street 
became a peripheral tract and the western one gained new importance as the central 
crossroad within a reduced city area. 

Alexandria remained a favorite with Roman emperors throughout the second century 
AD, as indicated by honorific and foundation inscriptions discovered there (Antoninus 
Pius erected the Gates of the Sun and Moon, Hadrian a palace and the town walls). An 
incident with Caracalla in AD 218 seems not to have led to any damages to the city's 
architecture, contrary to what followed the repressions of Aurelian in AD 273, when the 
city dared to take the side of Queen Zenobia of Palmyra. 

Archaeological evidence of destruction in the third century AD is more extensive than 
just in the royal quarter (Brucheion), which is mentioned in texts. Diocletian squashed 
another rebellion of the inhabitants in the last years of the third century AD. 
Commemorating the event is the gigantic column, known mistakenly as Pompey's Pillar, 
set up in the Serapeum. The great imperial foundations of the early fourth century, such 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 148 

as the complex of imperial baths begun presumably by Constantine the Great, excavated 
in the city center, are not mentioned anywhere in the written sources. 

Even though the Apostles did not have a hand in establishing Christianity in Egypt, 
tradition has it that St Mark the Evangelist was buried in a martyr's chapel located in 
close proximity to the eastern harbor. Of the church built on the spot in the fifth century 
AD, only four capitals remain. Christianity in the first two centuries was gnostic in 
character and played a secondary role. It got rid of pagan elements only after the time of 
Septimius Severus, and then developed quickly. 

In the late fourth century AD, particularly during the times of Theodosius I when 
Theophilus was the patriarch, religious fanaticism led to destructive anti-pagan 
repressions. The Serapeum went up in flames (AD 389), the temple of Dionysos and the 
theater were destroyed, and other temples were transformed into churches (St Michael's 
church in the temple of Saturn, a cathedral in the Caesareum, St John the Evangelist's 
church in the Serapeum). Statues were broken into pieces and libraries burned. Even so, 
in homogeneous ceramic deposits of the fifth century AD there are votive figurines of 
Isis, Harpokrates and the Dioskuroi next to ampullae of St Menas and Christian lamps. 

Earthquakes in AD 365, 447 and 535 completed the destruction of the city. The 
sinking of the area by about 3m, probably as a result of the earthquake in AD 365, 
flooded many of the structures located directly on the coast. A rising water table 
necessitated changes in the infrastructure (sewerage and underground aqueducts) and a 
raising of the foundation levels. Pauperized and disintegrated, the Alexandrian 
community could not face up to the invasion and long-standing siege of the Persians 
under Chosroes II in AD 619 and the Arabs of Caliph Omar in AD 642. After the 
invasions and earthquake of AD 792 the city's decline continued, and churches were 
rebuilt into mosques. 

The first large-scale, systematic excavations at Alexandria were conducted in 1866 by 
Mahmud Bey (el-Falaki) on an order from Khedive Ismail of Egypt. The results were 
published together with a reconstructed plan of the ancient city showing the course of the 
walls, canals and streets discovered in trenches and verified by data in the textual sources. 
The street network is from the Roman period. Later excavations helped fill in the plan, 
but never undermined its accuracy. 

Mahmud Bey drew another map of the city showing the plan before the Arab walls 
were dismantled in 1892, before the boulevard was constructed along the bay in 1902-5 
and before the Ramleh railway and stations were built in the first half of the twentieth 
century. The map (1:5000) was published in 1902. All the ruins and deposits of ancient 
rubble were marked on this map, as well as the current names of streets, the more 
important architectural structures and building lots. Modern archaeology uses Arab 
names or arbitrary designations from Mahmud Bey's plan to determine locations. 
Bartocci's map, in Alexandrea ad Aegyptum (1922) is the model for combining the 
topography of the ancient city with that of the modern one. 

The establishment of the Graeco-Roman Museum in 1893, with Giuseppe Botti as 
director, was important for the city's history for several reasons. In creating its own 
collection, the museum made an effort to stop the dispersion and destruction of the 
archaeological finds. It also conducted more systematic observations and salvage 
excavations wherever and whenever possible. Finally, it created the possibility of 
publishing the results of archaeological research in the Bulletin de la Societe 

Entries A-Z 149 

archeologique d'Alexandrie (BSAA) and in the Rapport sur la marche et la service du 
Musee Greco-Romain d'Alexandrie. 

Evaristo Breccia, who succeeded Botti in thepost of director of the Museum, published 
Alexandrea ad Aegyptum (1922), a compendium of knowledge on the ancient city. The 
next museum director, Achille Adriani, restored and preserved the ruins of the Alabaster 
Tomb and saved a set of frescoes depicting oxen turning a water wheel, from a tomb in 
the Mafrousa necropolis, to name just two of his achievements. Alan Rowe extended the 
explorations in the Serapeum and A.J.B.Wace excavated on Hospital Hill in Mazarita and 
on the outskirts of the Kom el-Dikka fort (his results were published only in part). 
Postwar directors of the museum, Riad, Hanna and el-Gheriany, in cooperation with the 
Alexandrian University, carried out investigations in different areas of the city, 
particularly in the cemeteries of Hadra, Mustapha Pasha and Gabbari, and published a 
selection of their finds. 

A mission from the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology of Warsaw 
University has worked on the site of the dismantled Kom el-Dikka fort since 1959. 
Kazimierz Michalowski's idea of creating a special park displaying the discovered ruins 
in their urban context, after proper restoration procedures, is being implemented with the 
permission of Egyptian authorities. Polish excavations have confirmed Mahmud Bey's 
plan, adding a cross-street through the insula (between streets R4 and R5). Public 
buildings were constructed in the eastern part of the insula, after the destructions of the 
third century AD. An imperial bath complex with subsidiary structures and service areas 
was discovered in the vicinity of a small theater of the fourth-seventh centuries AD, 

Figure 12 General view of the 1979 
excavations at Kom el-Dikka 

which was rebuilt repeatedly, resulting in a total change of form (added dome) and 
function (bouleuterion, ecclesiasterion). A large cistern building also belongs to this 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 150 

complex. In the first-third centuries AD the area was covered with houses of the villa 
urbana type, and then later by less affluent houses, workshops and stores (fourth-seventh 
centuries AD). 

Excavations have established stratigraphic sequences, confirmed periods of 
destruction, reconstructed the architecture and investigated the ancient water supply. 
Newly discovered ruins of early Roman date demonstrate how the city developed and 
verify data from the written sources. Stratigraphic investigations have added to studies on 
pottery, workshop influences, trade and imports. The plan of the Ptolemaic streets and the 
ruins of this period, however, will probably remain unknown. On the basis of the 
Hellenistic features of the Roman plan, we can assume it repeats the Ptolemaic network. 
It would also appear that the coastal part of the city (north of street LI) had a greater 
concentration of public buildings, while the southern districts were reserved for domestic 
and industrial areas, thus explaining the dearth of monuments there. Modern archaeology 
in Alexandria is often, however, a tedious penetration of secondary deposits and rubbish 
layers of considerable depth, only to reach rising ground water below. 

See also 

Late and Ptolemaic periods, overview; Macedonians; Roman period, overview 

Further reading 

el-Abbadi, M. 1990. Life and Fate of the Ancient Library of Alexandria. Paris. 

Bernand, A. 1995. Alexandrie des Ptolemees. Paris. 

Fraser, P.M. 1972. Ptolemaic Alexandria. 3 vols. Oxford. 

La Riche, W. 1996. Alexandria: The Sunken City. London. 

Steen, G.L., ed. 1993. Alexandria: The Site and the History. New York. 

Tkaczow, B. 1993. Topography of Ancient Alexandria. Warsaw. 


Amarna Letters 

The Amarna Letters, inscribed on clay tablets in the cuneiform writing of Babylonia, 
were discovered in 1887 at the site of Tell el-Amarna by a group of peasants. The 
circumstances of discovery led to the loss of perhaps 150-200 tablets; the surviving 
tablets (circa 360) were sold to different individuals and institutions, and are presently 
kept in various collections, mostly in the Berlin (circa 200), British (circa 100) and Cairo 
(circa 50) museums. The discovery provided a stimulus for excavations at the site, but 
only a score of additional tablets were found. 

After pioneering works by Winckler, Sayce, Scheil and others, a complete edition of 
the Amarna Letters was published in 1907 by JA. Knudtzon (a volume of notes and 

Entries A-Z 151 

indexes was added in 1915). Knudtzon's work was supplemented in 1987 by that of 
A.F.Rainey. More recently a definitive translation has been produced by W.L.Moran 
(French in 1987, English in 1992), but Knudtzon's is still the basic transcription of the 

The Amarna tablets clearly belonged to the archive of a royal office dealing with 
foreign affairs; hence the use of the cuneiform writing and the Babylonian language, the 
"diplomatic" medium of the time. Most of the tablets are letters, sent to and received 
from foreign correspondents in western Asia. Because of selective archival procedures, 
the incoming Asiatic letters were regularly kept, while the outgoing Egyptian ones 
constitute a small minority (just a dozen) in the extant collection. In addition to the 
letters, some lists of gifts were also part of the diplomatic exchange. A few Babylonian 
literary texts (Adapa, Sargon's "King of Battle") and school texts (Egypto-Babylonian 
vocabularies) were used for scribal training. 

The chronology of the archive is basically coincident with the period of Akhetaten 
(18th Dynasty), to the early years of Tutankhamen. Some letters, addressed to 
Amenhotep III, were brought to Amarna some time after they were received in Egypt. A 
precise chronology of the letters is not easily constructed; the cuneiform letters bear no 
date, and only a few hieratic ink datations have been added. Even the cuneiform 
renderings of Egyptian names (of pharaohs and courtiers alike) are not always clear. The 
historical synchronisms with events known from Egyptian and Hittite historical texts are 
well ascertained in basic outline, but some doubts are still left (connected with the 
identity of the pharaoh's widow writing to Suppiluliuma, the Hittite (Hatti) king, and 
with the problem of coregencies). 

A minority of the letters (about forty) came from the independent "great kings" of 
western Asia: Hatti, Arzawa, Mitanni, Assyria, Babylonia and Alashiya. Most of the 
letters came from the "small kings" of Syria and Palestine. Inner Syria was independent 
of Egypt, and its letters have a political and military content. The coast of Syria and all of 
Palestine were Egyptian dependencies, and their letters have an administrative content. 
The dossier of Rib-Adda, the king of Byblos, belongs to this group, but is worthy of 
special mention because of its size (by far the largest in the archive, with about seventy 
letters) and character. Important lots were written by Abdi-Ashirta and Aziru of Amurru, 
by Aitagama of Qadesh, by Abi-Milki of Tyre, by Lab'aya of Shechem and by Abdi- 
Hepa of Jerusalem. 

Only the few letters written in Babylonia are in "good" middle Babylonian dialect. 
The rest are written by scribes of different mother tongues, and show many peculiarities 
belonging to (or influenced by) their native language. The scribes' mother tongues were 
many and varied: northwest Semitic "Canaanite" in Phoenicia and Palestine, Hurrian in 
northern Mesopotamia and inner Syria, Hittite in Anatolia, and Egyptian in the outgoing 
letters. The letters have been studied in order to reconstruct the Canaanite dialect, on the 
basis of the glosses (words in the local language, written in the Babylonian syllabary) and 
of the morphological and syntactical deviance in the verbal system. 

The Amarna Letters provide a detailed picture of the international relations at the time 
of the 18th Dynasty. It has become customary to label the "Amarna age" as the period 
covered by the letters, throughout the entire Near East. If compared to the celebrative 
inscriptions of the time, the letters help in understanding how both groups of texts make 
use of biased and opposed interpretive patterns. The official inscriptions celebrate the 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 152 

central position of Egypt and the higher status of Pharaoh, and view the foreign rulers as 
inferior, vanquished and submissive or destined to submit, offering their goods and 
women as a tribute in exchange for survival. The same relationships are described in the 
letters in a different way: as a network of reciprocal performances among peers. The so- 
called "great kings" (those of Egypt, Hatti, Mitanni, Babylonia and Assyria) address each 
other as "brothers," exchange messages and greetings, bargain on the value of gifts and 
counter-gifts, ask and lend specialized personnel, and negotiate for dynastic marriages. 

Such a reciprocal arrangement is largely fictional and ceremonial in character. In 
reality Egypt had a higher and stronger position, both in economic terms and cultural 
prestige. This is shown by the self -humiliating tone used by Asiatic kings in asking for 
the Egyptian gold, and by the fact that Pharaoh is always receiving and never providing 
women. As to the military balance, the memory is still alive of the victorious wars led by 
the Tuthmoside kings in Syria. But the situation is changing with the intervention of 
Suppiluliuma, who, after subduing Mitanni and his vassals in Syria, takes possession of 
some former vassals of Egypt as well (Amurru, Qadesh, Ugarit). The Egyptian army does 
not seem to have been quick or strong enough to resist the Hittite advance. However, it is 
not certain whether this failure is to be imputed to a lack of decision and interest by the 
Amarna court (because of its religious engagements, or because of inner feuds), or simply 
to Hittite superiority. 

Formerly, a "catastrophical" view prevailed in reconstructions of the Egyptian 
political and military control of Syro-Palestine. The letters of the local kinglets insistently 
call upon help against their enemies, lamenting the surrounding insecurity. They ask for 
food and troops in order to ensure the protection of their cities and lament the disinterest 
of Pharaoh. The situation was interpreted as a general crisis of the Egyptian presence and 
control, a crisis often credited to Akhenaten's engagement with his religious reforms. In 
recent years, it has become clear that the Egyptian control went basically unchallenged; 
the local kinglets were simply trying to present their own enemies as enemies of Egypt as 
well, in order to get some help. The Egyptian messages are part of a seasonal routine of 
tribute-collecting by Egyptian officials with a small armed corps. The local letters both 
assert the vassals' submission and try to gain additional benefits from the Egyptian 
presence. The local kingdoms kept their rulers, and kept fighting each other. The 
Egyptian administration was basically disinterested in what happened, provided that 
tribute was regularly delivered. No general collapse of the Egyptian "empire" in Syro- 
Palestine can be detected in the Amarna Letters, although the northern area of the region 
was lost to the Hittites. 

Syro-Palestine was divided into three provinces, each containing an administrative 
center with an Egyptian governor, garrison and storehouses. These were located in 
Sumura (for the northern or Amurru province, eventually lost to the Hittites), Kumidi (for 
the inner province of Ube, i.e. the Beqaa and Damascus area) and Gaza (for the southern 
province of Canaan). Some areas, like the Yarimuta agricultural land and a few coastal 
cities, were under direct Egyptian exploitation. The inner steppe and highlands, inhabited 
by nomads and refugees, were largely outside any control (by the Egyptians and the local 
kinglets alike), but this was a normal state of affairs in the region. 

Entries A-Z 153 

See also 

Canaanites; New Kingdom, overview; Tell el-Amarna, city 

Further reading 

Heintz, J.G. 1982. Index documentaire d'El-Amarna. Wiesbaden. 

Liverani, M. 1990. Prestige and Interest: International Relations in the Near East ca. 1600-1100 

B.C.. Padova. 
Moran, W.L. 1992. TheAmarna Letters. Baltimore. 
Rainey, A.F. 1978. ElAmarna Tablets 359-379. Kevelaer-Neukirchen-Vluyn. 


anthropology and Egyptology 

Egyptology as a discipline began in the early nineteenth century. It has always been an 
independent field of research dealing with a particular culture area, from the Predynastic 
period until AD 395, the date of the last known hieroglyphic inscription. (Coptic studies 
deal with the Christian era and culture in Egypt.) Anthropology, on the other hand, 
consists of four fields: physical or biological anthropology, anthropological linguistics, 
archaeology, and sociocultural anthropology. It thus aims to study human cultures of all 
times and places, individually or from a comparative view, synchronically or 

The methods and theories applied by anthropology are, of course, applicable to the 
study of ancient Egyptian culture. Indeed, since the beginning of modern scientific 
research in Egypt physical anthropologists have been part of excavation teams. 
Linguistics, in the form of historical linguistics within the European tradition, has dealt 
with texts in Old, Middle and Late Egyptian and the language that evolved in the Late, 
Ptolemaic and Roman periods, often within the wider framework set for Afro-Asiatic 
languages. It is only since the mid-1970s that modern linguistic theory has been taken 
into account by Egyptologists specializing in the language of the Dynastic period. 

For the most part, interdisciplinary work in archaeology and sociocultural 
anthropology has not been a concern of Egyptological studies. One reason that has been 
given for this is the extensive labor going into the editing, translating and interpretation 
of hieroglyphic texts from all phases of ancient Egyptian culture. The predominance of 
funerary data has also made many Egyptologists concentrate on the religious aspects of 

The cultural analysis of ancient Egypt, however, has always required Egyptologists to 
use concepts that carry meanings reflecting the cultural tradition from which they arose 
(for example, the concepts of English kingdom, German Reich or French empire, which 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 154 

are used to describe ancient Egyptian sociopolitical organization during Dynastic times; 
these concepts superimpose fields of meaning that restrict an understanding of the 
archaeological and textual evidence). Similarly, anthropology is dependent on applying 
scientifically defined concepts: for example, terms that describe forms of sociopolitical 
organization, such as tribe, chiefdom, state; the functioning of the economy, such as 
trade, market, center and periphery, distribution, reciprocity, taxes, selling, buying, 
bartering; the social structure, such as class, aristocracy, official, patron-client, title, 
status, rank, prestige; and the belief system, such as state religion, beliefs, gods and 

Arithropology and Egyptology are both sciences of culture and therefore have similar 
concerns. As such, both fields of inquiry are dependent on an acceptable vocabulary to 
communicate their results. Furthermore, most of the terms noted above are fairly general; 
this means that their semantic field contains by implication further assumptions which 
color our view of the culture described. The anthropologist Clifford Geertz has made a 
useful distinction between experience-distant (or etic) concepts which reflect our 
scientific tradition and experience-near (or emic) concepts which are from the vocabulary 
of the cultures we study. It is useful to integrate indigenous concepts from ancient Egypt, 
such as "pharaoh" or "ma'at" (referring to the correct order of the universe), into our 
critical discourse in order to balance possible misunderstandings that could arise from our 
own concepts of culture. 

From the beginning of Egyptological studies, understanding of ancient Egypt and its 
textual evidence was biased. This is not different today, but in current ethno- 
archaeological research, this insight is consciously highlighted and integrated into 
interpretations. It has recently been argued that we might "read" archaeological sites like 
a "text" and that the archaeologist produces a new "text" with his/her site report; 
proposed by Ian Hodder, this view is controversial, but it does have interesting aspects 
and consequences for archaeological research. 

Apart from the concepts, with their denotations and connotations, it is the permanent 
application of analogies within a comparative perspective that helps make the past and/or 
a different civilization accessible. A reasonable argument against analogies may be made 
by stating that they only demonstrate our ignorance of the operative principles in cultures. 
However, the integration of new information, usually by induction, very much relies on 
comparing it to what we already know. It is here that analogies allow us to develop new 
hypotheses about culture processes. 

Two kinds of analogies need to be distinguished: there are direct historical analogies 
which use knowledge from a different time period in the same geographical area to 
understand the period in question, such as when we draw on folklore studies of 
contemporary funerary behavior in rural modern Egypt to understand funerary texts from 
ancient Egypt. There are also indirect or unconnected analogies. These apply knowledge 
of other cultures and ones from different times to the interpretation of archaeological and 
cultural data, such as when analogies are made about the processes of state formation in 
Mesopotamia and in ancient Egypt (different region/same time), or by treating the 
economic behavior of people in the markets of East Africa under colonial rule as 
reflecting a kind of economic behavior that ancient Egyptians may have shown (different 
region/different time). 

Entries A-Z 155 

A further differentiation, however, is necessary. Cultural artifacts, such as tools, may 
be compared and their development traced, i.e. using substantive analogies in which 
similarities of components are compared. In her book The Fellahin of Upper Egypt, 
Winifred S.Blackman included a chapter on ancient Egyptian analogies in order to show 
the cultural continuities in peasant life. Similarly, folklorist H.A.Winkler in his 
Agyptische Volkskunde traced direct historical continuities, but he was also able to show 
that changes in the material culture were extreme, due to the influence of the Graeco- 
Roman occupation in Egypt. 

Facets of cultural systems, such as the function of monumental architecture in 
Egyptian and Mesoamerican cultures, may also be compared. Here, systems with similar 
form (structure) probably show a number of other properties in common and therefore 
make the comparison helpful in postulating evidence only available in one dataset for the 
other: these analogies are called structural analogies. 

An important example of this kind of structural analogy is Michael Hoffman's 
comparison of trade and the acquisition of sumptuous and prestige goods by the chiefs at 
Hierakonpolis during Predynastic times, using the concept of chiefdoms as understood by 
cultural anthropologists. Hoffman cites the Melanesian kula system, a form of economic 
exchange with strong social and ritual aspects, as described by Bronislaw Malinowski, to 
help explain the archaeological evidence from Predynastic Hierakonpolis. 

It is not possible to provide any evidence of direct archaeological or ethnohistorical 
links between the Nile Valley and areas farther south, beyond a postulated common 
substratum resulting from the early movements of pastoralists following climatic shifts 
around 2500 BC. Thus, all references to African political systems, especially from East 
Africa, and references to similarities visible in symbolism and performance in 
ethnographies and ancient Egyptian texts (e.g. referring to divine kingship, as described 
by Henri Frankfort), should be treated as structural analogies. In such cases, however, the 
cults and rituals referred to are mostly from the early phases of ancient Egyptian history, 
where such practices are only fragmentarily recorded using an elusive writing system and 
unconnected symbols. 

Because most of their research is text-aided, Egyptologists have not often applied 
anthropological knowledge, methods or theories. The beginning of scientific Egyptology, 
which dates to 1822 with Jean-Francois Champollion's publication of his decipherment 
of hieroglyphic texts, and the early achievements of Egyptologists were very much based 
on archaeological research, which supplied huge amounts of new data and texts. Even 
Adolf Erman's influential Agypten und agyptisches Leben im Altertum or Eduard 
Meyer's history of ancient Egypt, though reflecting the Zeitgeist, did not integrate the 
then available anthropological knowledge about other cultures. 

It was only just before the turn of the century that a diffusionist perspective was 
introduced into Egyptology by Flinders Petrie with his concept of the "New Race," to 
explain artifacts from the First Intermediate Period. This interpretation was soon 
discarded. But apart from this example, Egyptologists did not take account of the 
theoretical trends in anthropology until well after the Second World War. Consequently, 
a positivistic view dominated Egyptology, resulting in the excavation of huge areas and 
cemeteries, and epigraphic surveys and the publication of texts. 

However, the diffusionist argument had gripped anthropology mainly as an antidote to 
the theory of evolution that had dominated the field during the second half of the 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 156 

nineteenth century. Thus the physical anthropologist Grafton Elliot Smith, who was 
embroiled in a scientific dispute with Flinders Petrie following Smith's book The Ancient 
Egyptians and the Origins of Civilization, proclaimed an extreme diffusionism by arguing 
that nothing was invented more than once. Outside Egyptology scholars, such as James 
G.Frazer (The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion), Oswald Spengler (Der 
Untergang des Abend-landes — Umrisse einer Morphologie der Welt-geschichte) and 
many others, used knowledge about ancient Egypt as a source for their universal 
histories. How easily the evidence may be misread, however, is exemplified in the 
important study on Oriental Despotism by Karl Wittfogel, who made statements about 
the hydraulic aspects of ancient Egyptian society that are not valid when archaeological 
and textual sources are consulted. 

It is conspicuous that there was hardly any attempt from cultural anthropology to 
comment on ancient Egypt. The exceptions are few: the most famous is Leslie White's 
1948 paper, "Ikhnaton: the Great Man vs. the Culture Process," in which he argued for 
the importance of cultural traditions which channeled Akhenaten's creative possibilities, 
thereby reducing his status as an independently innovative individual. There have been 
some attempts by comparative anthropologists and Egyptologists to comment on kinship 
and on brother-sister marriages, integrating data mainly contained in papyri from the Late 
and Ptolemaic periods. In the field of economics, discussions emerged that resulted in a 
renewed debate about substantivism and formalism, i.e. as to whether contemporary 
economic theory is applicable to ancient Egypt or whether the Egyptian economic system 
was based on redistribution. 

Since the 1960s there has been increased participation in Egypt of archaeologists, 
especially those in the international endeavors to save monuments and sites in Nubia that 
were to be flooded by Lake Nasser after the construction of the Aswan High Dam. As a 
result, the influx of ideas from anthropological archaeology can be seen. During the last 
25-30 years, work on many Predynastic sites in Upper and Lower Egypt has often been 
conducted within the paradigm of processual archaeology. Processual theory integrates 
cultural evolutionism and a materialistic perspective using ecological data to explain 
culture change due mainly to outside influences. In studies of ancient Egypt, it has led to 
numerous publications about the evolution of culture, institutions and sociopolitical 
organization, and the emergence and collapse of complex societies. These have been 
followed by attempts to apply suggestions from post-processual archaeology, i.e. the 
view that culture change very much depends on internal social relations and conflicts, and 
that material objects reflect the ideologies in the social system in question. Questions of 
power, social relations, religious symbolism, the emergence of kingship and of an 
Egyptian state have been addressed and led — with the help of analogies and post-modern 
culture interpretations from sociology and philosophy — to new hypotheses and 
interpretations of ancient Egyptian society. Out of all this, an eclectic approach is slowly 
emerging that integrates processual as well as post-processual perspectives, 
anthropological archaeology and, most importantly, text-based Egyptology. Prominent 
examples are Trigger's and Assmann's papers on monumental discourse. 

Ancient Egypt's long duree of over 3,000 years not only allows anthropologically 
minded archaeologists and Egyptologists to study the functioning and historical 
development of a fascinating cultural system, but it also offers tremendous insights into 
an ancient culture, its sociopolitical system, symbolism and ideology. Studies of ancient 

Entries A-Z 157 

Egypt benefit from the rare combination of archaeological remains, superb and rich 
textual evidence and dedicated scholars who put it all together. 

See also 

Champollion, Jean-Francois; Egyptian (language), decipherment of; Egyptians, physical 
anthropology of; Egyptology, history of; ma' at; Petrie, Sir William Matthew Flinders; 
Predynastic period, overview; Rosetta Stone 

Further reading 

Assmann, J. 1987. Sepulkrale Selbstthematisierung im Alten Agypten. In Selbstthematisierung und 

Selbstzeugnis: Bekenntnis und Gestdndnis, A.Hahn and W.Kapp, eds, 208-32. Frankfurt. 

. 1989. Maat, L'Egypte pharaonique et I'idee de justice sociale. Paris. 

Bard, K.A. 1992. Toward an interpretation of the role of ideology in the evolution of complex 

society in Egypt. JAA 11:1-24. 
Butzer, K.W. 1976. Early Hydraulic Civilization in Egypt. Chicago. 
Fortes, M., and E.E.Evans-Pritchard. 1940. African Political Systems. London. 
Frankfort, H. 1948. Kingship and the Gods; A Study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the 

Integration of Society and Nature. Chicago. 
Geertz, C. 1975. On the nature of anthropological understanding. American Scientist 63:47-53. 
Harris, M. 1968. The Rise of Anthropological Theory. New York. 
Hassan, F.A. 1988. The Predynastic of Egypt. JWP 2:135-85. 
Hoffman, M.A. 1991. Egypt before the Pharaohs. Austin, TX. 
Janssen, J. 1978. The early state in ancient Egypt. In The Early State, H.J.M.Claessen and 

P.Skalnfk, eds, 213-34. The Hague. 

. 1982. Gift-giving in ancient Egypt as an economic feature. TEA 68:253-8. 

Kemp, B.J. 1989. Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization. London. 

Malinowski, B. 1922. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. London. 

McGuire, R.H. 1983. Breaking down cultural complexity: inequality and heterogeneity. Advances 

in Archaeological Method and Theory 6:91-142. 
O'Connor, D. 1974. Political systems and archaeological data in Egypt: 2600-1780 B.C. WA 6:15- 

Schenkel, W. 1978. Die Bewasserungsrevolution im Alten Agypten. Mainz. 
Tainter, J.A. 1988. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge. 
Trigger, B.G. 1990. Monumental architecture: a thermodynamic explanation of symbolic 

behaviour. WA 22:119-32. 
Wenke, R.J. 1991. The evolution of early Egyptian civilization: issues and evidence. JWP 5:279- 



Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 158 


Antinoopolis is an ancient city on the east bank of the Nile in Middle Egypt (27°49' N, 
30°53' E), founded by the Roman Emperor Hadrian on 30 October AD 130. The site, now 
called Sheikh Tbada, is completely destroyed. It was called Antinoe, Antenon, 
Adrianopolis and Besantinopolis. Medieval Arabic sources refer to it by the name Besa, 
or Tisa, sometimes as Atsa or Itsa, but most commonly it is referred to by the name 
Ansina. The geographer Idrisi (d. 1165) relates that during the lifetime of the Prophet 
Moses, Ansina was the city from whence Pharaoh's magicians came. Hence, it was 
named in Arabic Medinet el-Sahharah (City of the Magicians). 

During his visit to Egypt, the Roman emperor Hadrian was accompanied by his 
favorite friend, the athlete Antinous of Bithynia. On the journey up the Nile, learning that 
some great catastrophe threatened his master the emperor, Antinous sacrificed his life and 
drowned himself in the river as an offering. However, the details of his death are obscure. 
Hadrian, being overwhelmed with grief over the loss of Antinous, decided to 
commemorate him by building a great city in his name. Thus, Antinoopolis was founded. 
The location of the new city was close to where Antinous had drowned. This was south 
of the then deserted ancient Egyptian town of Besa, almost opposite Hermopolis Magna 
(the modern village of el-Ashmunein). 

The city of Antinoopolis was inhabited mainly by Greeks, who were encouraged to 
move to the new city; the first settlers called themselves the "New Greeks." At 
Antinoopolis, the citizens enjoyed certain privileges that they did not have in their native 
towns; these included the right to intermarry with Egyptians. Newborn children could 
become citizens of the new city. They were also exempted from a 10 percent sales tax on 
property and slaves and on imported goods, as well as being exempt from payment of the 
poll tax. These privileges were intended to encourage people to settle in the city. Later, 
the emperor Antoninus Pius encouraged veteran settlement through a system of land 
allotment. The emperor Severus Alexander undertook great architectural projects and 
developed the entire northern district of the city. 

Antinoopolis soon became an important commercial center, especially because of its 
location along the Via Hadriana, the road which lead to the port of Berenike (the modern 
Baranis) on the Red Sea. It continued to flourish as an urban complex until at least the 
tenth century AD, for the nineteenth-century historian 'Ali Mubarak states that the 
historian Eusebius (d. 912) wrote that the inhabitants of Antinoopolis were associated 
with the clergymen of Jerusalem. However, by the twelfth century the site was described 
as extensive ruins. In that respect, the traveler Ibn Jubayr states that the city's great 
enclosure wall was completely destroyed by Sultan Salah al-Din (Saladin), some time in 
the period or during AD 1176-83. He adds that orders were given to every sailing boat on 
the Nile to transfer at least one block of stone downstream to Cairo. 

Edme Francois Jomard, who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte's expedition to Egypt 
in 1798, provided an excellent survey of the site in the monumental volumes of the 
Description de I'Egypte. In 1822, Gardner Wilkinson said that all the good marble, 

Entries A-Z 159 

limestone and granite that were used in the buildings of Antinoopolis had then been 
removed to build a bridge at the town of Reramoon. However, other sources mention that 
this systematic destruction was intended to build sugar factories in that region of Egypt. 
This must have left the city in an even more devastated state of ruin because only a 
decade later, the Italian antiquarian Giovanni Belzoni visited the site and wrote that the 
ruins of Antinoopolis did not surprise or impress him at all. 

Between 1896 and 1912, the archaeologist Albert Jean Gayet undertook excavations at 
the site, which led to the discovery of an ancient Egyptian temple of Ramesses II as well 
as a number of cemeteries outside the city. In 1914, other excavations were undertaken 
by Johnson, who was mainly searching for papyri. In the 1930s the Italian archaeologist 
Evaristo Breccia directed excavations at Antinoopolis, to be followed in the 1960s by 
further Italian excavations by the Institute of Papyrology of Florence in collaboration 
with the University of Rome. 

Our knowledge of the physical layout of Antinoopolis is based on Jomard's survey in 
the Description de I'Egypte. The site was trapezoidal in plan. A double enclosure wall 
surrounded the city on three sides, only leaving the river side open. A natural valley of 
extraordinary size ran across the city along its east-west axis; this was created by 
torrential waters flowing down from the desert hills into the Nile. The city was laid out 
on a grid plan, with orthogonal streets intersecting at right angles to each other. The two 
major streets, the cardo and decumanus major, were adorned by many Doric columns of 
medium height, and statues. The cardo started near a theater on the south and ended by a 
shrine on the north, and was adorned by 772 columns along its length (1622m). The 
decumanus major (1014m) led from a triumphal arch on the west to a gate on the east. It 
too was adorned by columns, 572 in number. Archaeological evidence shows that the 
decumanus minor was never colonnaded. 

The streets formed two main intersections. These were marked by four thick granite 
Corinthian columns that were raised on high platforms and were surmounted by statues. 
The intersection formed by the cardo and the decumanus major bore statues of Antinous 
above its columns. The intersection formed by the cardo and the decumanus minor had 
statues of the Roman Emperor Alexander Severus surmounting its columns; these were 
added in AD 233, commemorating his victory over the Persians. 

The main streets of Antinoopolis were 16m wide. The columns adorning them formed 
shaded walkways, 2m wide, on both sides of the street. A triumphal arch, intended to be 
viewed from the Nile, acted as the principal portal of Antinooplis. It was composed of a 
triple-arched passageway of two stories, which was divided by tall Doric pilasters and 
had a decorated entablature with triglyphs. In front of the arch stood two large pedestals 
which probably supported monumental statues of Antinous. The area between the 
triumphal arch and the Nile was a vast open court which was formed by great hypostyle 
halls on both its north and south sides, each having forty columns with Corinthian 
capitals. The columns displayed a variety of stones, such as granite, porphyry and 

Along the decumanus major stood the main public bath of the city, which is the largest 
surviving building at Antinoopolis. Its facade on the main street consisted of eight pillars, 
four flanking each side of the entrance. It had a large circular basin made of marble. A 
wall ran along the central part of the interior of the bath, which according to Jomard was 
to separate the two sexes. At the eastern extremity of the decumanus major was an 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 160 

eastern portal. Further to the east was a path in the bed of a small wadi, or valley, which 
led outside the city walls into the desert plain toward the hippodrome, where chariot races 
were held. The hippodrome (307m long and 77m wide) was in the usual shape of a 
rectangle terminating at one end in a semicircle. The facade of the hippodrome had walls 
that inclined at an angle, which reminded Jomard of pylons of an ancient Egyptian 

A theater originally stood at the southern extremity of the cardo. It was semicircular in 
plan, and was built of white marble and had a very large orchestra, which was adorned by 
Ionic columns. The theater had two large monumental gates. On the south side was a 
simple wall with a passageway through it. A monumental portal was situated on the 
northern side of the theater. This portal was known by local people as Abu'l Qurun, 
meaning "the Father of Horns." Jomard explained that the capitals of its Corinthian 
columns had long protruding corners which were noticed at a far distance, and resembled 
horns. The whole portal gave the effect of a Roman temple front. 

The principal buildings of Antinoopolis were oriented toward the main intersection, 
where the statues of Antinous were located. The triumphal arch, the hippodrome and the 
theater were all focused toward the intersection of the cardo and the decumanus major, 
which must have been a great social center. There would have been a constant awareness 
of Antinous in the city. In addition to the central intersection, Antinous was likely 
honored by a massive square monument at the northern end of the cardo. 

Unfortunately, the severe destruction of Antinoopolis does not allow for much further 
analysis. The major monuments of theater, shrine, triumphal arch and hippodrome have 
been identified, as well as the public baths. However, we know almost nothing about the 
private houses and the administrative buildings. The excavations of the site did not help 
much in understanding the urban fabric, as they focused on retrieving objects, textiles, 
and most especially, papyri. Hadrian founded the city of Antinoopolis to be the only 
Roman city in Egypt, a memorial to Antinous, and a symbol of Hadrian's own power. 
Thus, Antinoopolis was a Roman foundation, governed by Greek culture, on Egyptian 

See also 

el-Ashmunein; Berenike Panchrysos; Roman period, overview 

Further reading 

Bell, H.I. 1940. Antinoopolis: a Hadrianic foundation in Egypt. Journal of Roman Studies 30:133- 

Coquin, R.-G., S.J.Maurice Martin, S.Donadoni and P.Grossman. 1991. Antinopoolis. In The 

Coptic Encydopedia 1, Aziz SAtiya, ed., 144-6. New York. 
Donadoni, Sergio. 1973. Antinooupolis. In LA 1 (3):324-5. 
Thompson, David L. 1981. The Lost City of Antinoos. Archaeology 34 (l):44-50. 


Entries A-Z 161 


Apis, now the modern village of Zawiet Umm el-Rakham (31°34' N, 25°09' E), was 
known in pharaonic times as Hut-Ka (House of the Bull). It was a minor coastal 
settlement situated at the northeastern fringe of the Marmaric region, some 25km west of 
Marsa Matruh (ancient Paraitonion). Despite inadequate anchorage beneath the lee of a 
projecting headland (Ras Umm el-Rakham), the Graeco-Roman town is mentioned by a 
number of the classical authors, starting with Herodotus (circa 430 BC). While worship 
of the bull god that gave the town its name can be locally documented for the 30th 
Dynasty, little else is known of the town's history prior to the fourth century BC. The 
author of the Periplus of Scylax of Caryanda indicates that by the mid-fourth century BC 
Egyptian control extended as far west as Apis. 

The potsherd-littered plain between the coastal road and the sea is still largely 
unexcavated, but its appearance suggests that the later town followed the normal layout 
for Roman period settlements on this coast. The Egyptian Antiquities Organization 
(EAO) has recently cleared a number of rock-cut tombs, some of which have been 
provisionally assigned to the 26th Dynasty. Bits of clothing or shrouds still survive from 
the burials, which were placed in lead coffins and provided with pottery and glass 
vessels. An uninscribed but heavily built rectangular building of cut stone, with interior 
rooms of probable post-pharaonic date, has been partly cleared in the ancient town north 
of the coastal road. Some tombs are known to exist in the face of the low line of hills that 
parallel the sea to the south. 

The most important archaeological evidence at Apis is its Ramesside fortress, located 
a short distance south of the coastal road. The walled compound, originally surveyed by 
Alan Rowe soon after the Second World War and subsequently excavated in a few 
random places by Labib Habachi in the 1950s, is a rectangular enclosure, measuring 
circa 80* 100m. It was laid out with its four corners at the four cardinal points of the 
compass. Traces of a thick mudbrick outer wall are only visible on the northeast side. At 
the east corner was the entrance, now a poorly preserved stone gateway, to the west of 
which was a stone-lined passageway. 

A small stone temple, circa 20* 12m, was erected against the northwest wall of the 
fortress. A ramp leads to a pillared courtyard behind which are two transverse chambers, 
leading to three sanctuaries. Apart from one pillar inscribed with one of the names of 
Ramesses II, the temple is uninscribed and lacks decoration. 

In the vicinity of the stone passageway, Rowe recovered three detached, inscribed 
door jambs, hailing Ptah, "Lord of Ankhtaui." An inscription on one jamb is of "...the 
real (royal) scribe, his beloved, the chief of the troops, and Overseer of the Foreign 
Lands, Nebre, justified." In the group of storerooms west of the temple, Habachi 
subsequently found additional door jamb fragments, which perhaps belonged to separate 
chapels, along with fragments of votive stelae. One of the door jambs refers to Ramesses 
II "destroying Libya." The stelae continue the same theme, repeating the pharaoh's name 
and depicting captive Libyans. On one stela Ramesses II prepares to smite a prisoner, 
while Amen-Re offers a sword. The stela was given to the temple by the standard-bearer 
Amenmessu, who is shown kneeling in a lower register. On another stela Ramesses II 
offers a bouquet of flowers to the goddess Sekhmet. The lower register shows the 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 162 

dedicant, "the royal scribe and the great chief of the army, Panehesi," kneeling with 
uplifted arms to adore the goddess and to wish the king numerous jubilees (heb-sed). 

The entrance and stone passageway were inscribed with the names of the pharaoh and 
fragmentary texts describing his prowess. Badly preserved relief scenes depict Ramesses 
II descending from his chariot to smite his enemies. Habachi suggests that the temple was 
erected to the triad of Memphite gods, and, following Rowe, that the fortress served as 
the westernmost one in a chain of fortresses erected by Ramesses II to provide an early 
warning system against an attack by Libyans, and perhaps also their Sea People allies. 

See also 

Libyans; Marsa Matruh; New Kingdom, overview; Sea Peoples 

Further reading 

Habachi, L. 1980. The military posts of Ramesses II on the coastal road and the western part of the 

Delta. BIFAO 80:13-30. 
Helck, W., and E.Otto, eds. 1986. Umm er-Raham. In LA 6:846. 



The site of Armant, known as Hermonthis in Graeco-Roman times, is located on the west 
bank of the Nile about (30.5m) southwest of Luxor (25°37' N, 32°32' E). O.H.Myers 
excavated there in the late 1920s and early 1930s with the financial backing of Sir Robert 
Mond. Several areas were excavated with Predynastic, Dynastic and Coptic burials. Two 
cult centers, the Great Temple of Armant and the Bucheum, were also investigated. 

Predynastic evidence 

The main Predynastic cemetery at Armant was in Area 1400-1500, on the low desert 
fringe beyond the present-day edge of cultivation. Some Predynastic graves were also 
located in Area 1300 and near two Middle Kingdom tombs (1213 and 1214). Of the 
numerous Predynastic cemeteries excavated in Upper Egypt in the first half of this 
century, Cemetery 1400-1500 is the best documented one, and Werner Kaiser has 
developed a seriation system for Predynastic pottery based on this sequence of graves. 

To the east of Cemetery 1400-1500, Area 1300 contained twenty-seven burials. The 
larger burials in this area are all Dynastic, with a few Predynastic graves located closer to 
the edge of cultivation. To the east of Area 1300, two large brick-lined tombs (1207, 
1208), dating to the end of the Predynastic sequence (Nagada Illb), were excavated in 

Entries A-Z 163 

Area 1200. These tombs have areas of 24.00m 2 and 30.45m 2 , and are divided into several 
chambers, but it is unknown whether they were built for one individual or several. They 
are quite unlike other Predynastic burials at Armant, in scale, energy expenditure and 
quantities of grave goods. 

Myers also excavated a Predynastic settlement in Area 1000, about 2km from 
Cemetery 1400-1500 at the edge of cultivation. Although the cemetery next to this 
settlement was destroyed by later graves, pottery in Area 1000 suggests that it was earlier 
in date than Cemetery 1400-1500. In 1984 this settlement was investigated by Polish 
archaeologists. The recent excavations at this site, called MA 21/83, uncovered various 
features: postholes for a rectangular structure, a series of pits (for ovens, storage and 
unknown purposes), hearths, and circular structures built of large limestone slabs. Most 
of the ceramics at this site were of a chaff-tempered ware (known as Rough class), but a 
red-polished class and grey and brown classes were also found. 

The burials in Cemetery 1400-1500 were usually single inhumations in pits circa lm 
deep. Mummification was not practiced until Dynastic times, and skeletons were always 
in a flexed position, usually resting on the left side. Matting was sometimes found over 
and/or under the skeleton, or lining the sides of the grave pits, but there was a 
recognizable decline in the use of matting in the later burials. In a few instances corpses 
were covered with linen instead of matting. Several graves had traces of wood, either as a 
grave lining or a coffin, and two graves (1466, 1511) contained a wooden bed. Five 
graves had recesses cut next to the burial pit, presumably for additional grave goods. 

Burials in Cemetery 1400-1500 may have been oriented to the river: where the river is 
straight burials were aligned north-south, but they were erratic in orientation where it 
bends. Body orientation with the head to the south to southwest facing west, was by far 
the most common, as Flinders Petrie also observed at the main Predynastic cemetery at 

Armant, however, was not a major Predynastic center like Nagada and Ballas. 
Cemetery 1400-1500 numbered around 200 graves and was 170x75m in area. Burials 
exhibit spatial patterning that shifts through time. The early graves (Nagada Ic and Ha), 
which are small rough ovals (commonly less that lm 2 in area), are distributed throughout 
the southern part of the cemetery in a somewhat crowded pattern. This pattern changes in 
Nagada lib, when larger rectangular graves are distributed farther north, in less dense 
concentrations, while smaller Nagada lib oval graves tend to be more closely spaced 
among those of Nagada Ic and Ha. With a shift to larger rectangular graves (Nagada He, 
l-3m 2 in area), there is a northward movement in the cemetery, and graves are widely 
spaced. In Nagada Ildl and IId2 the graves are farther north still, and very widely 
scattered. Finally, the latest graves (Nagada Illal and IIIa2) are clustered in the far north 
of the cemetery. 

Pottery was the most common type of grave goods found in the Predynastic burials at 
Armant. Even the poorest burials which contained no other grave goods usually included 
one or two pots. Slate palettes were found in graves of all phases. The earliest palettes at 
Armant (Nagada Ic) are shaped as rhombs, sometimes with two amorphous animal heads 
or horns at the top. Fish- and turtle-shaped varieties appear in the middle Predynastic 
phase (Nagada II), and circular and rectangular examples were found in a late grave 
(Nagada Illb). Palettes were more common at Armant in the earlier graves (Nagada Ic 
and Ha), but this could be the result of the earlier graves being much less robbed than the 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 164 

later ones. Small grinding pebbles were sometimes found along with the palettes, and 
pigments to be ground on the palettes for cosmetics, such as galena, malachite and red 
ocher, were placed in some of the graves. 

Next to pottery, beads were the most common grave goods. Materials for beads varied, 
from one bead of lapis lazuli (from Afghanistan) to simple beads of fired clay. Steatite 
beads were the most common, but carnelian was also frequent. Stones from the Eastern 
and Western Deserts, such as chalcedony, quartz and garnet, were used for beads, as were 
faience and imported materials, such as malachite, amber, bitumen, resin and Red Sea 
coral. Ostrich eggshell was also used for beads. Other jewelry included bracelets or 
armlets in shell, and an ivory finger ring. Whole shells, both riverine and marine (Red 
Sea), were found in a number of burials. 

Chipped stone tools, such as points, flakes and blades, and cores from tool 
manufacture were found in some of the graves. Other stone artifacts in graves included 
polishing and grinding stones, and a hammer stone. 

Other craft goods were found in the Predynastic burials at Armant, including combs, 
tag-like objects, points and a vessel carved in ivory. Some of the more unusual grave 
goods included a carved ivory "gaming set" with two stone balls, two carved stone 
hippopotami and three clay "hands." Baskets were preserved in several graves. 

Numerous stone vessels or fragments were found in the two brick-lined tombs (1207 
and 1208). These were made of alabaster, diorite, limestone, marble, porcelainite, rose 
quartz, slate and steatite. Copper was rare at Armant: four axes of the metal were found in 
one tomb (1207), and two bracelets were in a grave (1547). 

Analyses of the Predynastic burials at Armant show a trend to greater numbers of pots 
and larger grave pits through time. Larger graves are probably a function of larger 
numbers of grave goods (mainly pots), and indirectly, greater energy expenditure on 
burial. The burials do not seem to be greatly differentiated except into two basic 
hierarchies (of poorer and richer graves, based on numbers of pots and relative grave 

Dynastic evidence 

In the west forecourt of the Great Temple in the town of Armant, Myers excavated a 
sondage (deep sounding) and found potsherds and fragments of stone vessels dating to 
the Early Dynastic period. A second sondage with artifacts from the Old Kingdom and 
First Intermediate Period was excavated in what Myers thought was the ancient town. 
Although the sondages demonstrated earlier archaeological evidence, blocks of the 
earliest temple at Armant date to the 11th Dynasty. Construction of this temple continued 
in the 12th Dynasty, and there is an offering table with the name of a 13th Dynasty king 

Kings of the early 18th Dynasty left their inscriptions, but most of the temple was 
constructed during Tuthmose Ill's reign. There is evidence that many inscriptions with 
the name of Amen were deleted during Akhenaten's reign. In the 19th Dynasty Ramesses 
II gave two colossi to the temple and his son Merenptah is associated with some statues 
of Osiris. 

Entries A-Z 165 

During the Ptolemaic period the older temple was dismantled and blocks were used for 
the foundation of a great new temple, but one New Kingdom pylon was left standing. 
Cleopatra VII built a "House of Births" (mammisi) to commemorate the birth of her son 
Caesarion (by Julius Caesar). During the Roman period construction continued on this 
temple, and Antoninus Pius built a "gateway" in the second century AD. Traces of a 
Roman bath were recorded by Myers, and a large town wall was built in later Roman 
times. Unfortunately, many building stones from the Graeco-Roman temple were used 
for the construction of house foundations and a sugar factory in the nineteenth century 

The Bucheum, another temple northwest of the town of Armant, was also investigated 
by Myers. This is where the Buchis bulls, believed to be representatives of the god Re, 
were mummified and buried. Offering tables and stelae with inscriptions recording events 
in a bull's life were found in this temple. To the east of the Bucheum was a Roman 
village with a large walk-in well. Northwest of this village was the Baqaria, a long 
vaulted passage with twenty-eight tombs for the mothers of Buchis bulls. Human burials 
in the area of the Bucheum were mostly from the Roman period, but Myers states that 
Ptolemaic priests were buried in a cemetery east of the Bucheum. 

Although Armant was never a major city in ancient Egypt, there is evidence of 
continuous occupation from Predynastic times to the present. During the Coptic period it 
was the seat of a bishopric and a large church was built. Muslim burials cover many 
(unexcavated) parts of the ancient temple. 

See also 

cult temples of the New Kingdom; Late and Ptolemaic periods, overview; New Kingdom, 
overview; Predynastic period, overview; Roman period, overview 

Further reading 

Ginter, B., J.Kozlowski and M.Pawlikowski. 1987. Investigations into sites MA 6/83 and MA 

21/83 in the region of Qurna-Armant in Upper Egypt. MDAIK 43:45-66. 
Mond, R., and O.H.Myers. 1934. The Bucheum I II, III. London. 

. 1937. The Cemeteries of Armant I. London. 

. 1940. The Temples of Armant: A Preliminary Survey. London. 



In the Old and Middle Kingdoms, the concept of an "army," as it is understood today, 
namely the organized military establishment of the state, did not exist. Regardless of its 
size, any body of fighting men was referred to as an "army" (ms') and military 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 166 

terminology was restricted to the designations "general" (imy-r ms' wr), "military 
officer" (imy-r ms') and "soldier" (w'w). A number of ad hoc military titles are recorded, 
but the rank of their incumbents cannot be determined. In short, there was no real table of 
organization. When the occasional pictorial depictions of armed warriors are 
accompanied by descriptive captions, they are simply labelled "retainers" (literally, 
"followers," smsw). The sole preserved Old Kingdom narrative in which the raising and 
use of "the army" is recounted is the tomb biography of Weni, the governor of Upper 
Egypt under the 6th Dynasty King Pepi I. Weni describes how he sent orders to the local 
provincial rulers to call up the levies of their own subordinates, and these in turn 
summoned their subordinates down through every level of the local administration. 

This same situation appears to have continued through the Middle Kingdom. The 
military forces of the state were those supplied by the provincial magnates when needed. 
Consequently, Egypt had a real "army" only when a strong, charismatic ruler occupied 
the throne. Most of the battles fought during the Old and Middle Kingdoms, for which we 
have any evidence, were infantry battles on land. By the end of the turbulent Second 
Intermediate Period, when Egypt was under the rule of the Asiatic Hyksos, the "rulers of 
foreign countries," a new dimension was added to the existing practice of warfare. This 
was the use of the horse, which had been introduced into Egypt from southwest Asia 
along with the war chariot which it pulled. Henceforth, after the defeat and expulsion of 
the Hyksos, the Egyptian army of the New Kingdom was comprised of two arms of 
service: the infantry and the mounted troops. 

At the outset of the 18th Dynasty, chariotry is first mentioned in narrative texts where 
it appears to have been an organic part of the infantry. Military ranks and titles are 
attested which are peculiar to the chariot, but not to the chariotry. In the middle of the 
reign of Amenhotep III, however, the army seems to have undergone a reorganization 
into the two arms of infantry and chariotry, and from then on until the end of the New 
Kingdom, each arm had its own table of organization and chain of command. 

The entire army was still called the ms', but this same term was also used as the 
designation for the largest self-contained infantry unit, the division, with its attachment of 
chariotry troops. Within each arm there were two distinct military hierarchies, that of the 
front-line combat troops and that of the rear-echelon administrative troops, the military 
scribes. The smallest formally organized infantry combat unit was the ten-man squad, 
commanded by a squad leader. Five of these made up a company whose commander was 
the "leader of fifty." The fifty-man company was the standard tactical line unit, and all 
higher units comprised a number of these companies. Thus, the strength of the next 
highest unit, the regiment (s3), varied between 400 and 500 men, i.e. 8-10 companies. It 
was commanded by an officer called the "standard-bearer" (t3i sryt) whose immediate 
subordinate was the adjutant (idnw). Two or more regiments, but no fewer than five, 
could comprise, ad hoc, a brigade (pdt) under the command of a brigadier (hry pdt). Two 
brigades, with a maximum strength of 2,500 men each, formed an army division (ms') 
commanded by a general (imy-r ms'). Both the brigadier and the standard-bearer had a 
second-in-command, known respectively as the "army adjutant" (idnw n p3 ms') and the 
"regimental adjutant" (idnw n p3 s3). The highest ranking officer within the military 
scribal hierarchy, the "scribe of the infantry" (ss mnfyt), was immediately subordinate to 
the brigade commander. Beneath him stood the "scribe of elite troops" (ss nfrw), the 
"scribes of the assemblage of the army" (ss shn n p3 ms') and "of the distribution of the 

Entries A-Z 167 

army" (ss dni n p3 ms'), all three of whom were superior in rank to the army adjutant. 
Immediately below the rank of regimental adjutant was the "scribe of the regiment" (ss n 
p3 s3). 

At the head of the table of organization for the combat ranks of the chariotry stood the 
brigade commander of the chariotry, who led a squadron of fifty vehicles. The squadron 
contained five troops, each of ten chariots and commanded by a "standard-bearer of 
chariot warriors" (\3isryt n snni.W). Each individual chariot had a two-man crew, the 
"charioteer" (kdn) and the chariot warrior. In addition to these, there are two other chariot 
ranks known to exist, the "runner" (phrr) and the "tkm-bearer" (X31 tkm), but their exact 
function within the chariot is unclear; the former may have been the foot soldier who is 
occasionally depicted in the pictorial representations running beside the chariot. 

All units down to the regiment had names. Those of the individual army divisions 
consisted of the name of a god, certainly the patron deity of the division, which was then 
compounded with either an epithet or a pious wish. The names of the brigades seem to 
have consisted of the term "brigade" plus a geographic designation, presumably either the 
place from which the brigade originated or else where it served. The names of the 
individual regiments, regardless of whether they served solely on land or whether they 
functioned as naval infantry (hnyt), were, without exception, composed of the name of 
the king under whom they served. This royal name, in turn, was compounded with a 
descriptive epithet. 

After the New Kingdom, Egypt was ruled by successive dynasties of foreigners, 
Libyans, Kushites, Saites, Persians and, finally, the Graeco-Macedonians. While the 
earlier pharaonic military ranks were occasionally still used, the earlier table of 
organization was now supplanted by that of Egypt's new rulers. 

See also 

chariots; ships 

Further reading 

Schulman, A.R. 1964. Military Rank, Title and Organization in the Egyptian New Kingdom (MAS 

6). Berlin. 
Shaw, I. 1991. Egyptian Warfare and Weapons. Aylesbury. 

Spalinger, A.J. 1982. Aspects of the Military Documents of the Ancient Egyptians. New Haven, CT. 



El-Ashmunein is the modern name of a large village in Middle Egypt, on the site of 
which are located the archaeological remains of the pharaonic city of Khmunw, known in 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 168 

the Graeco-Roman period as Hermopolis Magna. The ancient site is normally referred to 
by the names Ashmunein or Hermopolis Magna, although the former is preferable in 
view of its descent from the original Khmunw. This term means "City of the Eight," a 
description linked to an ancient local myth surrounding eight creator-gods (ogdoad). The 
ruins of the ancient city (27°47' N, 30°48' E) lie in the cultivated land to the west of the 
Nile, approximately 40km south of the important modern town of Minya. The site is 
marked by a stratified archaeological mound (lx 1.5km) formed from crumbling 
mudbrick buildings. The southern part of this area is covered by the modern houses of el- 
Ashmunein; a part of the northern limit of the mound lies beneath a separate village, 
called el-Idara. Between the two villages is the accessible portion of the site (some 85fJx 
1000m), in which archaeological work has been concentrated. 

Early attention was devoted to the search for papyrus documents in the mudbrick 
remains of the Roman town, and to the recording or excavation of certain stone-built 
monuments. Some of the latter were always visible, particularly the columns of the 
portico of a temple at the north end of the site. This temple was erected circa 370 BC and 
inscribed at a slightly later date with the name of Philip Arrhidaeus. The portico was built 
as the facade of a great temple, dedicated to the local god Thoth. The portico was 
quarried away by 1826, but had been drawn by the French antiquarians accompanying 
Napoleon's expedition, and by other early travelers. 

A German expedition, directed by Giinther Roeder, worked at el-Ashmunein from 
1929 until 1939. Important discoveries included a limestone gateway from a temple of 
the Middle Kingdom, inscribed for Amenemhat II, remains of two colossal statues of 
Ramesses II at the southern end of the site, and a temple entrance pylon of the same king, 
to which additions had been made in the 30th Dynasty. The foundations of this pylon had 
been constructed of reused masonry blocks, brought from the temples built by King 
Akhenaten at the site of his capital city, located not far away at Tell el-Amarna on the 
other side of the Nile. Some 1,500 blocks were recovered, many of them still bearing 
high-quality reliefs from their original use under Akhenaten. 

The German expedition searched for the two major streets of the Roman town, the names 
of which were known from Greek papyri to be "Antinoe Street" and "The Dromos of 
Hermes." The papyri made it clear that these streets crossed in the center of the city, with 
Antinoe Street running east-west and the Dromos of Hermes from south to north. The 
position of Antinoe Street was correctly identified and the ruins of several Roman 
monumental buildings beside it were studied by Roeder. The location of the second street 
of the city, the Dromos of Hermes, was not discovered until 1982, when parts of it were 
revealed in excavations carried out by the British Museum. Fragments of columns and 
capitals from the great tetrastylon, a group of four huge limestone columns at the street 
crossing, were also identified in the British Museum work. These probably supported 
statues of the Emperor, but no traces of the sculptures remain. 

The excavations of the German expedition produced important information on the 
layout of the town, such as the extent of the great mudbrick enclosure wall (temenos) 
around the temple area. This sacred region lay in the heart of the city, surrounded by 
areas of domestic settlement. In the latter, the German test trenches revealed something 
of the distribution of settlements at different periods, identifyingv areas of New 
Kingdom, Late period and Roman occupation. One large building with red granite 

Entries A-Z 169 

columns and corinthian capitals was mistakenly identified with the Roman market, or 
agora. Subsequent work has shown this building to be a Christian cathedral of the fifth 
century AD, built on the site of a classical temple to King Ptolemy III and Queen 
Berenike. The true identity of these buildings was discovered by Makramallah, Megaw 
and Wace during excavations for the University of Alexandria in 1945-50. 

Figure 13 Plan of the major 
monuments in the central city at el- 

1 gate of Amenemhat II 

2 New Kingdom temple 

3 subsidiary temple dedicated to Amen 
and Thoth 

4 30th Dynasty temple 

5 subsidiary chapel, later enlarged 
under Domitian 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 170 

6 Greek-style temple to King Ptolemy 
III and Queen Berenike 

The results achieved by the German expedition provided a valuable foundation for the 
planning of the British Museum excavations, which took place each year between 1980 
and 1990. The British Museum expedition investigated both the temples and settlements 
of el-Ashmunein. The position of a major New Kingdom temple was identified between 
1981 and 1985 in the region north of the pylon of Ramesses II, found previously by 
Roeder. This temple had been enlarged by different rulers from the 18th-20th Dynasties, 
including Amenhotep III, Horemheb, Ramesses II and Ramesses III. The discovery of a 
broken stela, dated to year 15 of King Osorkon III, showed that additions continued to be 
made to the building in later periods. 

Several colossal quartzite statues of baboons, one of the sacred animals of Thoth, were 
carved for the New Kingdom temple under Amenhotep III. Fragments of these sculptures 
were found by Professor A.MAbu-Bakr in 1946, cached under the foundations of the 
30th Dynasty temple, a structure founded by King Nectanebo I to replace the older 
temple of the New Kingdom. Two of the baboon statues were reconstructed in the 1950s, 
and placed on modern plinths at the northern end of the site. 

The whole sacred complex was rebuilt in the 30th Dynasty, and surrounded by a brick 
enclosure wall with a perimeter in excess of 2,000m. The inscription of Nectanebo I on a 
stela from the site, recording the foundation of temples, probably refers to this building. 
To the east of this temple lay a subsidiary chapel, probably constructed at the same time, 
but later redecorated and enlarged under the Emperor Domitian. 

Another major monument in the central part of the city is a temple to the west of the 
axis of the main shrine, dedicated to the gods Amen and Thoth. Although decorated 
under the kings Merenptah and Seti II, construction of this temple certainly began in the 
reign of Ramesses II, a colossal statue of whom once stood at its entrance. At the south 
end of the site, close to the modern village of el-Ashmunein, a separate small temple of 
Ramesses II was excavated by Professor Abu-Bakr in 1946. It had been restored under 
the Emperor Nero, and in the fifth century AD its front courtyard was overbuilt by a 
small church, recently studied by Grossman and Bailey. 

The enlarged temple enclosure of the 30th Dynasty was built over areas that had 
previously contained domestic settlements, which surrounded the sacred area on all sides. 
Late Roman deposits cover the surface in many areas, but the level immediately below 
these varies from Late period to New Kingdom or even Middle Kingdom in different 
parts of the site. Work on the excavation of the domestic areas includes certain test- 
trenches dug by the German expedition in 1929-31 and detailed study at selected points 
carried out in 1985-90 by the British Museum. This work revealed mudbrick houses, in 
three levels dating between 900 and 650 BC. Another area, not far north of the subsidiary 
temple of Amen, contained a group of burials dating to about 2000 BC, some of the 
earliest remains so far discovered at el-Ashmunein. The burials were very poor, with few 
grave goods apart from flint tools and pottery, and they were contained in small vaulted 
graves of mudbrick construction. 

Entries A-Z 171 

See also 

Karnak, Akhenaten temples; New Kingdom, overview; Roman period, overview; Tell el- 
Amarna, city; Tuna el-Gebel 

Further reading 

Bailey, D.M. 1991. Excavations at El-Ashmunein 4. London. 
Roeder, G. 1959. Hermopolis 1929-1939. Hildesheim. 
Spencer, A.J. 1983-1993. Excavations at El-Ashmunein 1-3. London. 
Wace, A.J.B., and A.H.S.Megaw. 1959. Hermopolis Magna, El-Ashmunein: The Ptolemaic 
Sanctuary and the Basilica. Alexandria. 



Assyria was a Bronze Age and Iron Age state located in what is today northern Iraq. The 
earliest evidence of a relationship between Egypt and Assyria is in the early New 
Kingdom, in years 24, 33 and 40 of the reign of Tuthmose III (18th Dynasty). These 
accounts attest to attempts by Assyria to gain Egyptian support against the expanding 
kingdom of Mitanni, located in the upper Euphrates region. Egypt at that time was 
fighting Mitanni in Syria. This Egyptian-Assyrian relationship, which largely manifested 
itself in the sending of gifts (Assyria sent lapis lazuli and characteristic "Assyrian" 
vessels), possibly appears again seventy years later in a cuneiform letter found in Egypt 
at the site of Tell el-Amarna. In this text, deliveries of Egyptian gold are mentioned 
taking place during the reign of an Assyrian king, Assur-nadin-ahhe (I or II?). According 
to this king, Assur was a Mitannian province, unable to free itself until the last years of 
the reign of the Egyptian king Akhenaten. Then the king of the Mitanni, Tushratta, was 
murdered and succession problems followed. The then ruler of Assyria, Assur-uballit I, 
recommenced diplomatic relations with Egypt, and there are two more letters to 
Akhenaten concerning this. However, in a letter of protest from Burnaburiash, king of 
Babylonia, dating to circa 1325 BC, an opposing claim to sovereignty over Assyria, 
based on historical grounds, was expressed. 

In the following 600 years there is no information about relations between Egypt and 
Assyria. This changes, however, with the advances of King Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria 
(745-727 BC) against the small city-states of Syro-Palestine, a situation which also 
involved Egypt. In 731 BC the Assyrian king took Damascus and made subjects of the 
rulers in Palestine. On the border with Egypt, he set up a buffer zone controlled by a 
bedouin sheikh. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 172 

From the Old Testament (II Kings, 17:3-4) we know that the king of Judah, Hosea, 
conspired with a King "So" of Egypt (possibly the Libyan ruler Osorkon IV, resident in 
Bubastis and ruler of the eastern Delta) for a change in the succession to the Assyrian 
throne. In this way Shalmaneser V came to the Assyrian throne. Also at this time, 
Egyptian scribes appear to have been present in the Assyrian court. 

The death of Shalmaneser V in 722 BC led to revolts in the Assyrian provinces and a 
loss of power in Palestine, a movement again supported by Egypt. Cuneiform texts 
mention an Egyptian general named Re'e. The next Assyrian king, Sargon II (721-705 
BC), suppressed the revolts and defeated the Egyptian army. Osorkon IV then 
commenced diplomatic relations with Sargon II, a trading treaty was made and Osorkon 
sent horses to the Assyrian king. 

In these years there was great political change in Egypt. Bocchoris, the prince of Sais 
in the Delta, advanced upstream into the Nile Valley until he was halted in 714 BC by 
Shabako, the Kushite ruler of the 25th Dynasty then in control of Upper Egypt. The latter 
king then embarked upon a policy of appeasement with Assyria. A request for help 
against Assyria from Jamani, the prince of Ashdod (in Palestine), was refused by 
Shabako. Thus abandoned by Egypt, Jamani was attacked by Sargon II' s army. However, 
under the next Assyrian king, Sennacherib (704-681 BC), revolts again broke out in 
Syro-Palestine. An Egyptian army came to help, but it was defeated in 701 BC. 
Sennacherib then took Jerusalem, despite the advances of another Egyptian army, which 
Shabako's successor, Shebitku, had sent. 

In 690 BC, Taharka (25th Dynasty) succeeded to the Egyptian throne. Sennacherib 
was murdered in Assyria in 681 BC and a struggle over succession broke out between the 
princes, which was won by Essarhaddon (680-669 BC). He too had to suppress revolts in 
Syro-Palestine, especially in Sidon on the Mediterranean coast. Due to the constant 
Egyptian support of rebels, the Assyrian king decided on the elimination of this 
adversary. His first attack at Sile, at the border fortifications of the eastern Delta, failed in 
674 BC. However, in 671 BC the Assyrian army gave the border forts a wide berth and 
instead advanced through the desert, battling their way through the Wadi Tumilat in the 
eastern Delta to Memphis. After the capture of the city, doctors, officials and artisans 
were taken to Assyria, along with fifty-five royal statues, several of which have been 
found at the Assyrian royal palace at Kouyundjik. While Taharka held Upper Egypt, 
Lower Egypt was organized as an Assyrian territory. The city of Memphis received an 
Assyrian name and its leaders were controlled by Assyrian governors. 

A counterattack by Taharka in 669 BC led to a recapture of Memphis and a 
responding Assyrian expedition was abandoned on the death of Essarhaddon. In 667 BC 
his son and successor, Assurbanipal (668-626 BC), sent his army against Taharka. The 
Kushite troops were defeated in Lower Egypt at Kar-banite (now known as Saft el- 
Henne) and the Assyrians pursued them into Upper Egypt. Nevertheless, the Kushite king 
held the Assyrians at Thebes. Then the local princes in the Delta rebelled but, lacking 
organization, their efforts were fruitless. Among these rebels was a certain Neko of Sais, 
who was re-established in his rule and became a vassal of Assyria. Under the Assyrian 
name of Nabu-sezibanni, his son received the rule of the city of Athribis. 

Taharka's successor, Tanutamen, came to the throne in 664 BC and began his reign 
with a renewed attack on the Assyrians in Egypt. He even succeeded in recapturing 
Memphis. Thus Neko of Sais fell, as he chose to remain loyal to the Assyrians, and his 

Entries A-Z 173 

rule was taken over by his son, Psamtik. However, the other local princes remained on 
the side of the Assyrians and so Tanutamen's advance was checked. Assurbanipal now 
involved himself in the dispute, expelling Tanutamen from Upper Egypt and then 
plundering Thebes. The Assyrian king took much Theban booty, including two obelisks. 

In 652 BC a struggle began between the two Assyrian royal brothers, Assurbanipal 
and Shamash-shum-ukin, who was ruling in Babylon. This proved to be the beginning of 
the end of Assyrian power. Psamtik, previously a loyal Assyrian vassal, allied himself 
with Shamash-shum-ukin, along with Gyges of Lydia in Asia Minor, who sent his Ionian 
and Carian soldiers, mentioned by Herodotus as "bronze men." With their help Psamtik 
conquered the Delta princes, followed in 656/655 BC by conquest of the Theban region, 
previously considered part of Tanutamen's kingdom. Egypt was unified once more and 
Assyria's control ended with little bloodshed, since the Assyrian troops were preoccupied 
with their internal dispute. 

It is striking that there are no monuments from the time of Assyrian rule in Egypt, nor 
did those who fought against this control, such as Tanutamen or Montuemhet, the ruler of 
Thebes, mention their Assyrian overlords in texts. Only in later Egyptian texts did the 
Assyrians emerge as sworn enemies. This suggests that Assyrian rule in Egypt was seen 
as an abnormal period and was therefore dealt with in a customary Egyptian fashion, by 

In 629 BC the Babylonian king, Nabopolassar, drove the Assyrians out of Babylon, 
and two years later Assurbanipal died. However, in 616 BC Nabopolassar and his army 
were defeated by Assyrian and Egyptian troops at Balikh on the Euphrates River. Seeking 
to maintain the balance of power in the region, Psamtik I had sided with the Assyrians. 
Nevertheless, the Assyrian kingdom quickly collapsed. 

In 614 BC the Medes captured Assur, the Assyrian capital, and in 612 BC the Medes 
and Babylonians took Nineveh, another major Assyrian city. The remnants of the 
Assyrian army retreated to Harran in northern Mesopotamia under their last king, Assur- 
uballit II, who had become ruler after Assurbanipal's son Sin-shar-ishkun was burned to 
death in his palace at Nineveh, an occurrence remembered by the Greeks in the story of 
Sardanapalus. In 610 BC both Assyria and Egypt had to give up Harran. That same year 
Psamtik I died and his son, Neko II, came to the throne. He immediately gave up the 
Euphrates front, but was nevertheless unable to retake Harran. Assuruballit II stood alone 
against the Babylonian and Egyptian troops now involved in Neko II's organization of 
Syro-Palestine as Egyptian territories. In 606 BC the Egyptians were in an advantageous 
position: they had recaptured Kummuh, south of Carchemish, and had broken through the 
Babylonians' line of defense at Qurumati. However, in 605 BC the Babylonian crown 
prince, Nebuchadnezzar, took command of the army and from the west stormed 
Carchemish, the center point of the Egyptians' Euphrates front. The Egyptian army, 
including many Greek mercenaries, was annihilated, having been intercepted near 
Hamath in Syria. All of Syro-Palestine fell into the hands of the Babylonians. For Egypt, 
the fall of the kingdom of Assyria merely meant replacement of the Egyptian-Assyrian 
stalemate with an Egyptian-Babylonian one. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 174 

See also 

Amarna Letters; Late and Ptolemaic periods, overview; New Kingdom, overview; Tell 
el-Amarna, city; Third Intermediate Period, overview 



Aswan is a town on the east bank of the Nile at the northern end of the First Cataract 
(24°05' N, 32°54' E). In Greek it was called Syene and in Egyptian Swnw. At Aswan, the 
course of the Nile is interrupted by an outcrop of the magmatic basement-complex, 
imposing a natural borderline. Breaking through this barrier, the river divides into 
numerous branches; rapids and shoals make navigation dangerous, even impossible, for a 
distance of about 6km. Here, in the ethnic borderland between the Egyptian and Nubian 
peoples, the southern frontier of pharaonic Egypt was established in Early Dynastic 
times; the region of Aswan, or Nome I of Upper Egypt, was always regarded as the 
starting point of Egypt. Situated where the overland routes bypassing the Cataract start 
and where the loading and unloading was done, Aswan occupied a key position 
controlling the trade in African luxury items. Further, desert trails linked Aswan to the 
great western caravan routes via the well-stations Kurkur, Dungul and Selima, while the 
Wadi Abu Aggag and the Khor Abu-Subeira provided an eastward connection to the 
tracks leading to Berenike at the shore of the Red Sea. 

The Aswan region itself offered a unique array of colorful hard rocks, all of them 
highly valued as material for monumental buildings and for the sculptural arts. Taking 
advantage of the convenient location for river transport, large-scale quarrying was 
therefore conducted at Aswan throughout pharaonic history. Finally, the area held an 
important religious significance. Since the Nile entered Egypt here, it seemed appropriate 
to locate the sources of its all-sustaining inundation in the dramatic river scenery of the 
cataract. Thus, the cult of the local deities became closely linked to the lifecycle of the 

Starting in Predynastic times, an unbroken series of sites and monuments offers the 
opportunity to trace the history of the area. The oldest and, throughout antiquity, most 
important town of the region was situated on Elephantine Island. Opposite the island, on 
the plain of the east bank, where the portage road circumventing the Cataract ended, a 
harbor and marketplace should have existed very early. Attested for the first time in the 
Ramesside period under the name of Swnw (for which, viewing the circumstances, the 
etymology as "marketplace" seems virtually certain), the town was of some importance 
in Persian times (late sixth to fifth centuries BC). 

The extant monuments date only from Ptolemaic and Roman times, when Aswan 
enjoyed some importance as a garrison and a base for military operations against Lower 
Nubia. Most conspicuous nowadays is the temple dedicated by Ptolemy III and Ptolemy 

Entries A-Z 175 

IV to the goddess Isis "who fights in front of the army." a theological device conceived 
well in accord with the military character of the town. Situated in the southeastern part of 
the modern city, the building consists of a hypostyle hall supported by two pillars, giving 
access to three parallel sanctuaries in the rear part. The relief decoration showing the 
usual array of ritual scenes remained confined to the main doorways and the back wall of 
the central sanctuary. The enclosure wall, pylon and forecourt, which should have been 
present, as well as eventual ancillary structures, are covered by the modern settlement. In 
the immediate vicinity another temple, erected by Trajan, is known from decorated 
blocks reused in the medieval town wall. Also in the southern part of the modern city, 
nearer to the river, a second temple erected by Ptolemy IV was discovered at the 
beginning of the twentieth century. Additions to its architecture by Tiberius, Claudius and 
Trajan, as well as inscribed votive altars, attest to its use down to the early third century 
AD. Unfortunately, this building has since vanished completely. 

While all the earlier monuments are found concentrated in the southern part of the site, 
in Roman times it appears that the town expanded northward. From the distribution of 
these remains, the area of the town can be roughly estimated as about 12ha in the 
Ptolemaic period, growing in Roman times to about 16ha. Near the river, some 300m 
north of the temple of Isis, badly decayed remains are still visible of a chapel dedicated 
by Domitian, possibly to Khnum. Relatively well preserved is the pronaos (front porch) 
with a four-columned facade and an engaged portal, while the naos, consisting of 
antechamber and sanctuary, is lost today nearly to the foundations. From the 
neighborhood, the discovery of pillars, columns and capitals is reported, which might 
have belonged to a basilica erected under Antoninus Pius. 

South of Aswan, remains of an enormous fortification wall are still visible. It 
connected, over a distance of some 7.5km, the loading-place of Aswan to the plain of 
Shellal. Clearly, the wall served to protect the portage road bypassing the unnavigable 
stretch of the Cataract against eventual bedouin raids. Recent fieldwork by Jaritz has 
revealed its construction: 5m thick at the base, built in filled casemate masonry, the wall 
reached a height of about 10m, towering above a sloping glacis on its outer face, while a 
wide track runs along its inner (western) side. The date of this building is still doubtful. 
Remains of three Roman watchtowers, discovered along the road, attest to its use down to 
that period. 

Originally, the cemetery of the ancient Egyptian metropolis of Elephantine was 
situated immediately west of the settlement on the island itself. When rock-cut tombs 
became fashionable in the 6th Dynasty, however, a separate necropolis for the burials of 
the elite was founded on the west bank, some 1.5km downstream of Elephantine. Here, 
halfway up the slope of a prominent sandstone hill called Qubbet el-Hawa (Hill of the 
Wind), the tombs were laid out in three horizontal rows overlooking the valley. 

Tombs dating from the late 6th Dynasty (Pepi II) form the first and most numerous 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 176 

Figure 14 Archaeological sites in the 
Aswan region 

phase of occupation, which extends well into the First Intermediate Period. In the most 
sumptuous tombs, an open causeway leads up from the river to a narrow courtyard 
extending in front of the tomb. The entrance to the chapel, set centrally in the facade and 
sometimes flanked by miniature obelisks, opens into a broad rectangular hall hewn out of 

Entries A-Z 177 

the living rock. Its ceiling is usually supported by up to three rows of rough pillars or 
columns, while the offering place in the middle of the rear wall is regularly marked by a 
false door. Decoration is sparse and distinctly provincial in style. Even in the richest 
tombs, decoration is confined mainly to doorways, the false door and a few tableaux on 
the walls or the faces of the pillars. Quite an unusual feature in the burial customs of this 
cemetery is the habit to furnish the dead with scores of offering jars inscribed with 
hieratic labels naming, sometimes in combination, contents, addressee or donor. The 
tomb owners, the aristocracy of ancient Elephantine and their subordinate personnel, 
served the king as troop commanders and caravan leaders, organizing and conducting far- 
ranging trading, quarrying and military expeditions. 

Only recently, a necropolis of mastaba tombs was discovered on the riverbank at the 
foot of the Qubbet el-Hawa, extending northward into the plain of modern Gharb Aswan. 
The single excavated 6th Dynasty mudbrick mastaba closely resembles the tombs known 
at Elephantine. The geographical extent of this cemetery, as well as its chronological 
range, still remain to be determined. Equally, it is not yet clear whether this cemetery was 
used by the inhabitants of Elephantine, or whether it possibly belonged to an ancient 
settlement in the plain north of the Qubbet el-Hawa. In Roman times, at least, the 
settlement and military post known from the documents as Contra Syene must have been 
situated here. While archaeological traces of this settlement are missing, a few badly 
decayed tomb chambers cut into the foot of the Qubbet el-Hawa could date from this 

At the beginning of the 12th Dynasty, Senusret I appointed a new line of local 
governors at Elephantine. These officials, who controlled the civil, military and religious 
administration of the region, commissioned a series of great rock-cut tombs. As in the 
Old Kingdom, a pillared hall, now oriented longitudinally, is entered via the causeway 
and forecourt. From the hall, a narrow corridor leads deep into the rock, giving access to 
a small square chapel holding the shrine for the cultic statue of the owner. A series of 
Middle Kingdom corridor tombs of lesser status is known to have been situated on a 
narrow terrace above the rows of the rock-cut chapels. 

Later tombs are conspicuously few. While two tombs of the 18th Dynasty are 
interspersed among the earlier ones, a tomb of a 19th Dynasty high priest of Khnum, 
named Kakemu, is to be found isolated on a hillock a little northward. Though badly 
defaced since its discovery, the tomb, comprising entrance pylon, forecourt, pillared hall 
and a burial apartment entered via a sloping passage, is rightly famous for its painted 
decoration, especially the ornaments on the ceiling of the hall. While still later tomb 
constructions are absent, the existing ones were used for secondary and intrusive burials 
throughout the Late period. 

South of Aswan, the main settlement area was located on the east bank, in the wide 
plain of Shellal at the upper end of the cataract. Mainly in its southern part, a series of 
cemeteries was excavated by Reisner in 1907-8, comprising numerous burials of the 
Nubian A-Group, a small cemetery of the Nubian Pan-Grave Culture dating from the 
Second Intermediate Period, as well as a series of shaft tombs of the New Kingdom. In 
the northern part, a burial ground of Graeco-Roman date was discovered. The early 
settlements themselves were not excavated, but the trenches of the fort, where the Legio I 
Maximiana was garrisoned during the late Roman empire, could be identified in the 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 178 

More cemeteries of Graeco-Roman date were discovered on the islands of the 
Cataract, most importantly an extensive cemetery of rock-cut chambers on el-Hesa 
containing the interments of the priests of Isis of Philae from Ptolemaic times. In 
addition, a group of similar but badly plundered rock-cut tombs dating from the first 
century AD is known on the west bank opposite Elephantine. 

Excavations in the vicinity of the temple of Isis in Aswan revealed a few stone 
sarcophagi remarkable for bearing name-labels in Aramaic. There are no convincing 
reasons, however, to link this find with the group of Aramaic-speaking Jewish 
mercenaries stationed at Elephantine during Persian rule, which is known so well from 
the Aramaic papyri discovered there. 

Apart from the large temples at Elephantine, Aswan and Philae, a number of lesser 
sanctuaries are known from the region. At Sehel, halfway up the eastern slope of 
Husseintagug, a rocky hill in the southeastern part of the island, the site of a temple of the 
goddess Anuket, the principal deity of Sehel, is marked by a narrow terrace and a broad 
niche cut into the face of the hill. Sandstone slabs decorated with offering scenes attest 
two sides of a small shrine or an altar dedicated by Sobekhotep III of the 13th Dynasty to 
Anuket, while only a series of architectural fragments remains of a chapel erected by 
Amenhotep II. A truly enormous number of dedicatory rock-inscriptions on the boulders 
opposite and around the place bears witness to the importance of this sanctuary from the 
latter part of the Middle Kingdom. Another much later temple at Sehel is known from 
decorated blocks bearing the cartouches of Ptolemy IV, mostly found reused in the 
modern village north of Husseintagug. 

On top of the mountains of the Western Desert, at the Gebel Tingar, a small chapel 
was installed in the New Kingdom, protected by a huge solitary block of silicified 
sandstone. As in the temples of Anuket at Sehel and Satet at Elephantine, it is evident 
here that the sacred place originated in a conspicuous natural site. A rough enclosure wall 
of piled rubble and some cuttings in the floor for the foundations of the shrine are the 
only remains of the architecture of the former chapel. Scores of dedicatory rock 
inscriptions on the faces of the natural boulders, however, attest to its celebrity 
throughout the New Kingdom. Apart from the civil and religious authorities of the 
region, the personnel of the nearby quarries figure prominently among the devotees of 
this cult. A similar situation may be assumed for a chapel of Amen located in the quarries 
east of Aswan, which is mentioned in the time of Tuthmose III in a list of offering 

The most characteristic feature of the region of Aswan is its extensive quarries. Traces 
of the quarrying activities are abundant. The most impressive relics are an unfinished 
New Kingdom obelisk measuring a gigantic 42m in length, which is lying immediately 
south of Aswan, and several unfinished colossal statues left behind in the southeastern 
part of the quarry. Lesser quarries, mostly of Roman date, are known on several of the 
islands of the Cataract, as well as at several places on both riverbanks north of Aswan. 

Thanks to the geographical situation with suitable rock-faces abounding, the Aswan 
area can boast of the most important concentration of rock inscriptions and rock drawings 
known in Egypt. The rock drawings, depicting mostly animals but also stylized human 
figures, occur most often at the mouth of wadis and at natural shelters along the 
riverbanks. A few of them, especially those depicting ships, are clearly Predynastic; 

Entries A-Z 179 

others are recognizably pharaonic, but most of them are probably late Roman or medieval 
although exact dating remains a problem. 

The rock inscriptions, on the other hand, start in the 4th Dynasty and continue 
throughout pharaonic times, though the bulk derive from the Middle and New Kingdoms. 
Inscriptions of private persons are found most often, especially during the New Kingdom, 
in connection with important shrines: the temple of Anuket at Sehel, the temples at 
Elephantine and the chapel at the Gebel Tingar. They display the devotion to the local 
deities, commemorating a visit to their sanctuaries. Other inscriptions, particularly those 
of the Middle Kingdom, were engraved at conspicuous places alongside important roads, 
the riverbanks and, above all, the roads connecting Aswan and the harbor at Shellal. They 
were commissioned by people who were sent to Aswan or Nubia to carry out quarrying, 
trading or administrative tasks for the crown. 

Normally in the Middle Kingdom, the texts state only the name, titles and family 
relations of the owner. In the New Kingdom, short formal prayers to the king and/or the 
local gods become frequent. Narrative texts detailing the objectives of the sojourn at 
Aswan are rare, though forthcoming. Often, the inscriptions accompany relief figures of 
the persons mentioned and the gods addressed in the prayers, some of which are 
beautifully carved. Various kings, on the other hand, left a series of important historical 
texts. Sixth Dynasty royal visits to the area to receive homage by the native headmen are 
recorded in several inscriptions. In the Middle and New Kingdoms, a series of stelae was 
carved in the boundary area commemorating military expeditions against Nubia, while a 
group of texts on the eastern face of Sehel island relates to the clearing out of navigation 

Another remarkable text is the so-called "famine stela" located on top of Bibitagug hill 
at Sehel. This document, composed in the Ptolemaic era but fictitiously dated back to the 
3rd Dynasty, recounts how the king donated the land of the Dodekaschoinos from Aswan 
to Takompso near Quban in Lower Nubia to (the temple of) the god Khnum for bringing 
about relief after a seven-year period of famine; a fake, the stela was evidently made up 
to support proprietary claims of the priesthood of the temple of Khnum at Elephantine. 

Numbering over a thousand, this unique collection of texts provides invaluable 
historical information regarding the civil and religious administration of the region, as 
well as Egyptian-Nubian relations. Furthermore, the texts provide important aid in dating 
and/or interpreting the archaeological and geographical contexts in which they occur. 
Thanks to the rich and varied archaeological as well as epigraphic record, a unique 
reconstruction of the conditions and of the organization of provincial life is possible for 
the area of Aswan. In particular, the interplay between natural and cultural factors, and 
between local and nationwide interests, can be studied here in an exemplary manner. 

See also 

A-Group culture; C-Group culture; Elephantine; Nubian forts; Nubian towns and 
temples; obelisks; Philae; quarrying; Reisner, George Andrew 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 1 80 

Further reading 

Jaritz, H. 1993. The investigation of the ancient wall extending from Aswan to Philae. MDAIK 

Jaritz, H., and M.Rodziewicz. 1996. Syene: investigations of the urban remains. MDAIK 52:233- 

Kamil, J. 1993. Aswan and Abu Simbel: History and Guide. Cairo. 
Klemm, D., and R.Klemm. 1992. Steine und Steinbruche im alten Agypten. Berlin. 



Asyut, the capital of Nome XIII of Upper Egypt, lies on the west bank of the Nile (27°11' 
N, 31°10' E) approximately halfway between Minya and Qena, at the beginning of a 
caravan route leading to Kharga Oasis, and from there on to Darfur in western Sudan. 
The modern toponym "Asyut" derives from its ancient Egyptian name Z3wt or Z3wty, 
meaning "the Guard." The town must have already existed in the Old Kingdom, as its 
first mention goes back to the Pyramid Texts. The archaeological record, however, begins 
in the 9th/10th Dynasties with three tombs of the governors (nomarchs) of Asyut, who 
were possibly related to the kings of Heracleopolis and were their allies in the campaigns 
against the rising Theban power. The savants accompanying Napoleon's expedition to 
Egypt devoted special attention to the site, a fortunate circumstance since some of the 
tombs later suffered heavy destruction. In spite of their shortcomings, the plans and 
drawings published in the Description de I'Egypte are our only source for the texts and 
reliefs of some of the tomb facades. 

The oldest rock-cut tomb (no. 5) belongs to Kheti I. The doorway gave access to a 
roughly square chamber with two pillars, the back wall of which has an unusual plan: 
instead of being straight, it is divided into three angled sections. The biographical text 
relates Kheti' s achievements, including the digging a canal for his city. It contains no 
reference yet to strife with the Thebans, although it does allude to the mustering of 
troops. In this tomb the temple of the main deity of Asyut, the jackal-god Wepwawet, 
"Lord of Asyut," is mentioned for the first time. The facade of Tomb 3, which belonged 
to Kheti I's successor Itibi (possibly his son), was decorated in the same manner. The one 
chamber of this tomb is innovative in plan, being longer than it is wide, and it is divided 
into two distinct sections by the two pillars. Itibi's victories against the "Head of the 
South" (tp-Sm3w, i.e. Thebes) are mentioned in his biographical inscription. The texts 
referring to these wars, however, were later plastered over and replaced by another, 
painted text. The niches in the back wall and additions on the facade belong to a later 
reuse of the tomb. 

Itibi's son and successor, Kheti II, was a contemporary of King Merikare of the 10th 
Dynasty. His tomb (no. 4) also consists of a single chamber, but with four pillars instead 

Entries A-Z 181 

of two. Its facade is destroyed, but the chamber contains well-known reliefs depicting the 
police troops of Asyut and a biographical text of Kheti II, who was also involved in the 
wars against Thebes. The fact that he is the last of this line of nomarchs of Asyut is 
evidence that the nome must have eventually fallen under the control of the Thebans in 
their northward push to reunify Egypt. All three of the Asyut nomarchs bear, along with 
their administrative titles, the title of high priest of the town gods, Wepwawet and 

Three nomarchs of Asyut in the Middle Kingdom, all called Hapidjefa, are known 
from their tombs there. The best preserved burial is that of Hapidjefa I, who lived during 
the reign of Senusret I. This consists of a forecourt, now destroyed, which led to a 
passageway, a hall with side rooms and, through another passageway, an inner hall and a 
chapel flanked by two small side rooms. The inscriptions provide many details of his 
administrative and priestly duties and titles. Unfortunately, the texts in the tombs of 
Hapidjefa II and III are badly damaged. The tomb of the latter featured a pillared hall, a 
second hall, a vaulted passage and a wide narrow room which gave access to three 
chapels. It contained a later hoard of over 600 stelae, mostly consisting of votive stelae to 
Wepwawet; some were dedicated to Amen-Re, Hathor, Osiris, Ptah and Thoth. The tomb 
had also been used to store demotic papyri and mummies of canidae, presumably sacred 
animals worshipped as manifestations of the jackal-god Wepwawet. 

The vestiges of tombs of contemporaries of the Asyut nomarchs, dating from the 
9th/10th to 12th Dynasties, have also been recorded. Numerous Middle Kingdom coffins 
inscribed with Coffin Texts come from Asyut, although their exact provenance is not 

At the end of the Second Intermediate Period, the town is mentioned in Kamose's 
account of his campaigns, as the king halted here for the flood season during his war 
against the Hyksos. In the New Kingdom, Hatia, the "scribe of the registrar" (ss n WI0SW) 
and "magistrate" (^''f') of Asyut is represented in the Theban tomb of Rekhmire (TT 
100, reign of Tuthmose III) bringing the tribute of his city. This indicates that Asyut 
belonged to the southern administrative district, falling under the authority of the Vizier 
of the South. 

Stone blocks from a temple of the Aten (worshipped by the heretical King Akhenaten) 
were found under a house in Asyut, but they must have been brought there from 
elsewhere. A block found in the same location, with an inscription of a speech of 
"Wepwawet of the South" in favor of Ramesses II (19th Dynasty), may have belonged to 
a temple of this deity. Papyrus Harris I states that Ramesses III (20th Dynasty) restored 
the temple of Wepwawet in Asyut, and erected two funerary temples for himself within 
the precinct of the main temple. The papyrus also states that the king gave the Wepwawet 
temple four slaves, while he presented his funerary temples with 157 slaves and later 122 

In the Late and Graeco-Roman periods, some tombs at Asyut were reused. A demotic 
papyrus from the time of the Persian King Cambyses (27th Dynasty) provides an 
indication of the temple's location: it lay west of an imaginary line drawn between the 
southern quarter and the city proper. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 182 

See Also 

First Intermediate Period, overview; funerary texts; Napoleon Bonaparte and the 
Napoleonic expedition 

Further reading 

Beinlich, H. 1975. Assiut. In LA: 489-95. 

Brunner, H. 1937. Die Texte aus den Grabern der Herakleopolitenzeit von Siut. (Agyptologische 

Forschungen 5). Gliickstadt. 
Griffith, F.L. 1889. The Inscriptions of Siut and Der Rifeh. London. 
Porter, B., and R.Moss. 1934. Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, 

Reliefs, and Paintings 4: Lower and Middle Egypt, 261-70. Oxford. 


Entries A-Z 183 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 1 84 


el-Badari district Predynastic sites 

The el-Badari district (26°50'-27°10' N, 31°16-31°31 E) lies on the east bank of the Nile 
near the modern city of Asyut. Most of what is known concerning Predynastic culture of 
the region is based on the work of Guy Brunton, who conducted extensive fieldwork in 
the area in the 1920s and early 1930s, and Gertrude Caton Thompson's meticulous 
excavation in 1924-5 of a site known as North Spur Hemamieh (usually referred to as 

For Brunton, the el-Badari district consisted of the 16km stretch of low desert between 
the modern villages of el-Etmania (Qau el-Kebir) and Naga Wissa. He then continued 
working northward in two sectors he called "Mostagedda" and "Matmar." However, 
these two sectors are now regarded as merely an extension of the el-Badari district and 
this region is defined as the area between and including two large wadis, Wadi el-Asyuti 
and Qau Bay, approximately 60km long. 

Between 1922 and 1931, Brunton excavated over 100 Predynastic sites, both 
cemeteries and settlements, in his three sectors of the el-Badari region. His colleague, 
Caton Thompson, chose to conduct a more careful excavation at the small village locality 
of Hemamieh, about 3km to the north of the modern village of el-Hemamieh in a stretch 
of low desert Brunton had dismissed as being too narrow for a cemetery. The work of 
both Caton Thompson and Brunton left many fundamental aspects of the Predynastic 
culture of the region unresolved, and in 1989 and 1992 a small team, led by Diane 
L.Holmes of the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, conducted new 

The known Predynastic sites all occur in the low desert between the cultivation and 
the limestone plateau. In the el-Badari region this strip of desert is very narrow, seldom 
exceeding a few hundred meters in width. The sites are generally shallow, with deposits 
approximately 0.5-2.0m in depth. The majority are multi-period localities with later 
Predynastic and Dynastic graves dug into earlier village levels. The habitation deposits 
consist of loose sandy sediments mixed with ash, charcoal, vegetable matter and animal 

Entries A-Z 185 

bone. Potsherds and lithics are abundant, but evidence of any habitation structures is rare. 
Because the sites tend to be palimpsests of different phases, the Predynastic culture of the 
el-Badari region is perhaps best described by period rather than by considering individual 

During his first field season, Brunton encountered a "new" kind of pottery that was 
thin-walled and had a rippled or combed exterior. Brunton concluded that this pottery 
was early and represented a culture preceding the other Predynastic cultures then known. 
His conclusion was vindicated by the work of Caton Thompson at Hemamieh. She peeled 
off the sediments of this small settlement in 6 inch (15cm) layers. As she went down, she 
encountered ceramics belonging to the familiar Predynastic classes (from the Nagada 
I/Amratian and Nagada II/Gerzean phases). Then in the lowest levels she found examples 
of the rippled pottery along with other types that Brunton found in the graves he was 
excavating. They named this culture with the rippled pottery "Badarian." 

The Badarian is significant as it remains the oldest known agricultural tradition in the 
Nile Valley of Upper Egypt (though preliminary reports indicate there may be a partly 
contemporaneous early phase of the "Nagadian" culture in the Armant area. The people 
of the Badarian culture planted wheat and barley and kept cattle, sheep and goats, but it is 
unknown to what extent they were dependent on these resources. They also caught fish 
from the Nile and hunted gazelle. Little indication was found of the kind of structures 
they inhabited except at one locality (site no. 2000/3500 near Deir Tasa), where the 
stumps of several wooden posts were found which may represent the remains of a light 
hut or shelter. The only other features Brunton reported for any Badarian settlements are 
a number of deep pits, which Brunton assumed were granaries. 

Aside from the numerous Badarian settlements (over fifty), Brunton cleared a large 
number of Badarian burials (about 750 spread over forty-five localities). The graves 
consisted of shallow, roughly oval-shaped pits with the body generally placed in the 
position and orientation that was to become characteristic of burials throughout the 
Predynastic period in Upper Egypt (i.e. in a contracted position, lying on the left side, 
with head to the south facing west). The Badarian grave goods were relatively simple. 
The deceased was usually wrapped in matting or animal skins and placed on a reed mat. 
Buried with the body were often items of personal adornment, such as necklaces of 
marine shells or stone beads. Other artifacts in the grave usually included a single pot, 
and sometimes a slate palette or a few flint tools. 

Although the Badarian was recognized as "early," it was a long time before any 
absolute dates could be assigned. In the early 1970s a series of thermoluminescence (TL) 
determinations were obtained for eight potsherds from Caton Thompson's Hemamieh 
excavations, but they only substantiated the relative sequence already known and did not 
provide realistic absolute dates. Five new radiocarbon dates have now been obtained 
from samples recovered during recent excavations at Hemamieh and Site 3400 (near Deir 
Tasa), and these show that the Badarian clearly falls into the 4000-4500 BC range. 

Only in the Gurna-Armant region are there other Predynastic sites in Upper Egypt 
dating to earlier than 4000 BC (sites MA 6/83 and MA 21/83). However, these are not 
Badarian sites. Rather, the excavators assign them to their "Nagadian" culture. Although 
there are some similarities in the pottery between the Armant and el-Badari regions, they 
are not sufficient to support the notion of the Badarian culture extending as far south as 
Armant. While some scholars have tried to claim a Badarian affiliation for a number of 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 186 

sites outside the el-Badari region, their evidence, usually comprising just a few sherds 
with rippled decoration, may merely indicate trade with the el-Badari region. 

When Brunton began working near Deir Tasa, he thought he was finding evidence of 
an even earlier culture, which he named "Tasian." Few people assessing his results in 
detail have accepted the Tasian. Brunton did not excavate his sites stratigraphically and 
he did not find any site yielding what he claimed were "Tasian" finds without there also 
being Badarian evidence. Any artifacts that Brunton considered to be characteristic of the 
Tasian should be regarded as part of Badarian material culture. The incised flaring- 
mouthed beakers that Brunton thought were typical of the Tasian, however, may 
represent a non-local import, possibly from a people inhabiting the Eastern Desert or 
perhaps northern Sudan. 

Many of the Badarian sites also show evidence of later Predynastic use, both as 
settlements and as cemeteries. However, while Brunton dated the graves in terms of 
Flinders Petrie's Sequence Dating system, he did not always provide an indication of the 
relative chronological position of the post-Badarian Predynastic settlements. 
Nevertheless, in general, Brunton concluded that most of the later graves were Gerzean 
(Nagada II) in date while the settlements were mainly Amratian (Nagada I). 

One of the intriguing results of the recent fieldwork conducted by Holmes, however, 
was the paucity of pottery and other objects that could be assigned to the Nagada I phase. 
The Predynastic sites surveyed had readily identifiable Badarian and/or Nagada II 
ceramic classes, but only very rarely was a sherd encountered that could be considered 
Nagada I. While this paucity of Nagada I material is not yet fully understood, it is 
unlikely to reflect a break in occupation between the Badarian and the Nagada II phase in 
the el-Badari region. Both Caton Thompson's and Holmes's excavations at Hemamieh 
indicate that the site was occupied more or less continuously throughout the Predynastic 
period, from the Badarian to late Nagada II. What the Hemamieh sequence and the results 
of the 1989 and 1992 surveys seem to suggest, however, is that during the Nagada I phase 
(circa 3900-3500 BC) the material culture of the el-Badari region was of a different 
appearance from contemporary assemblages elsewhere in Upper Egypt. In 1956, Werner 
Kaiser suggested that the Badarian of the el-Badari region was largely contemporary with 
the Nagada I phase represented in other parts of the Nile Valley. While more data are 
needed, this suggestion may turn out to be partly true. The results of the recent field 
investigations suggest that perhaps after 4000 BC, the Badarian developed into an 
"evolved Badarian" or "transitional Badarian/Nagada I," still essentially Badarian in 
character but with some Nagada I elements. This "evolved Badarian" then gave way to a 
clear Nagada II phase with both the settlements and the cemeteries yielding artifact types 
familiar from Nagada II sites throughout Upper Egypt, although the flint artifacts seem to 
reflect a local tradition which has been termed the "Mostagedda industry." 

Evidence for habitation structures dating to the post-Badarian Predynastic comes from 
Hemamieh and a series of sites to the north of Sheikh 'Esa. At Hemamieh, Caton 
Thompson found nine "hut circles," which she dated to the Amratian (Nagada I). These 
were small mud constructions, l-2m in diameter, some of which had at least some sort of 
wattle-and-daub superstructure. Only the larger ones, however, could have served as any 
kind of human shelter, and they all may have been storerooms or shelters for young 

Entries A-Z 187 

At the series of settlement localities near Sheikh 'Esa, Brunton uncovered several 
roughly circular, mud-plastered floors (at localities 3000/3, 3000/9 and 3000/11). These 
floors were about 3m in diameter and were bounded by low mud walls or sills. Parts of 
wooden stakes, which would have supported the superstructure of these huts, were also 
found at locality 3000/3. In addition, the remains of a roughly rectangular hut or shelter 
(approximately 1.6x2.1m) were found at locality 3000/ 12. Although Brunton assigned 
these localities to the Amratian (Nagada I), recent results suggest that they are in fact 
Nagada II. 

During the Nagada III phase, the desert seems to have been used only for burials. The 
settlements were presumably in the area of cultivation. One locality (3000/3), however, 
has a two-chambered, rectangular mudbrick structure (approximately 3.6><2.0m). Brunton 
was uncertain of its age, though it is probably Nagada III or 1st Dynasty. Although its 
function has not been established, it was possibly an early temple, as it was overlain by 
the remains of two Dynastic temples. 

While a rich variety of Predynastic sites has been found in the el-Badari region, the 
sites are disappearing rapidly due to modern developments, especially extensive land 
reclamation projects. 

See also 

Armant; Caton Thompson, Gertrude; Nagada (Naqada); Neolithic and Predynastic stone 
tools; Neolithic cultures, overview; pottery, prehistoric; Predynastic period, overview; 
Thebes, el-Tarif, prehistoric sites 

Further reading 

Brunton, G. 1937. Mostagedda and the Tasian Culture. London. 

Brunton, G., and G. Caton Thompson. 1928. The Badarian Civilisation. London. 

Holmes, D.L. 1988. The Predynastic lithic industries of Badari, Middle Egypt: new perspectives 

and inter-regional relations. WA 20:70-86. 
Holmes, D.L., and R.F.Friedman. 1994. Survey and test excavations in the Badari region, Middle 

Egypt. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 60:105-42. 


Baharia Oasis 

Baharia Oasis is located about 400km south of the Mediterranean coast and 225km west 
of the Nile Valley (27°40'-28°30' N, 28°35'-28°10' E). Through desert tracks the oasis is 
connected with Siwa Oasis, the Fayum, Farafra Oasis in the Western Desert, and el- 
Minya and el-Mahasna in the Nile Valley. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 1 i 

Baharia Oasis is located in a depression 42km wide (east-west) and 18km long (north- 
south). The floor of the depression is about 100 to 175m below the surface of the desert 
plateau. Today the cultivated area, fed mostly by springs and wells, is still very limited. 
The majority of the depression is barren with scattered desert vegetation. 

Archaeological investigation of el-Heiz, in a small depression south of the main 
depression, shows that the area was occupied in early to mid-Holocene times by small 
groups of people who lived in close proximity to ephermal lakes (playas). The sites range 
from 20-2000m 2 , but they are generally in the range of 20-80m 2 . Artifacts in the sites 
include fragments of grinding stones, bifacial and unifacial arrowheads, thin large 
bifacial tools, bifacial double-pointed points (perforators?), side-scrapers, end-scrapers, 
burins, and notches and denticulates. Ostrich eggshell pieces (some perforated) and stone 
balls are present. With the exception of the bifacial tools, the stone tool industry (which 
may be called "Khomanian" after a spring in the oasis, Ain Khoman) fits in the same 
tradition of the Late Paleolithic assemblages from Dishna in the Nile Valley, assigned to 
the Isnan Industry (dated to circa 12,300 BP, "before present" in radiocarbon years). 

The small sites were associated with a sequence of dune sands intercalated with playa 
sediments. The playa deposits belong to a moist episode well recorded in the Western 
Desert from circa 6,900 to 6,100 BP, postdating an interval of severe aridity circa 7,000 
BP, and followed by another episode of aridity circa 6,000 BP. 

See also 

dating techniques, prehistory; Paleolithic cultures, overview; Paleolithic tools; Siwa 
Oasis, prehistoric sites 



The site of Balabish consists of several cemeteries on the east bank of the Nile (26°12' N, 
32°08' E), about 22km downriver from Nag Hammadi. It was excavated by 
GAWainwright and Thomas Whittemore in 1915, but had been excavated earlier by the 
Department of Antiquities and was plundered in antiquity. Cemeteries here date to the 
Middle and New Kingdoms, and the Coptic period. There may also have been a 
Predynastic cemetery in the vicinity. Some very small tombs were probably of Late 
period date, but the archaeologists found Coptic potsherds on the slopes outside the 
tombs mixed with artifacts of the Late period, suggesting that the tombs had been cleared 
out and used by a colony of Coptic hermits. The New Kingdom cemetery still contained 
some artifacts, including an inscribed limestone shawabti, and an inscribed heart scarab 
in slate. Egyptian pottery was found in this cemetery along with imported wares from 
southwest Asia, one-handled juglets (bilbils), and two-handled "pilgrim flasks," some of 
which contained "ointment." 

Entries A-Z 189 

Most notable at Balabish, however, was the excavation of a Pan-grave cemetery. The 
Pan-graves belonged to people of a different material culture from the Egyptians. They 
entered Upper Egypt in small numbers between the Middle and New Kingdoms. Unlike 
the shallow Pan-graves that Petrie excavated at Hu, the Balabish Pan-graves were deep 
(about 1.5m). Most of the Pan-graves were round or oval in shape, and there was no 
evidence of superstructures. Twenty-one round graves and thirteen oval graves with 
contracted burials were excavated with typical Pan-grave goods, but fifteen rectangular 
graves with extended burials and Pan-grave goods were also found scattered among the 
others and extending into the area of the New Kingdom cemetery. Graves were oriented 
north or northwest, following the course of the Nile at Balabish. Two deposits of pots 
containing "ointment" were found in small holes, but without burials. 

Unlike Egyptian burials, the Pan-grave burials at Balabish contained a large number of 
leather goods, especially leather garments, sometimes with beads sewn in the seams, and 
leather wrist guards used by archers, in both decorated and plain styles. Leather sandals 
of a different syle from Egyptian ones of the New Kingdom were found in six graves. 
Beads were made of imported Red Sea shells and ostrich eggshells, but carnelian and 
glazed blue beads were also common. In one grave was a typical Pan-grave bracelet of 
flat, rectangular shell beads strung together. Pottery was also typically Pan-grave; the 
most common classes found in burials were bowls of the Black-topped Red class and 
"hatched ware" made of Nile clay. 

See also 

Hu/Hiw (Diospolis Parva); Pan-grave culture 

Further reading 

Wainwright, G.A. 1920. Balabish. London. 


Behbeit el-Hagara 

Near the modern village of Behbeit el-Hagara (31°02' N, 31°17' E) in the Delta province 
of Gharbia are the ruins of a temple dedicated to the Osirian family. The temple is located 
to the north of Samanoud, the ancient capital of Nome XII of Lower Egypt. The Arabic 
name of Behbeit is derived from the ancient Egyptian toponym Per-hebite(t). The site 
was erroneously identified with the Isis temple (at Busiris) that Herodotus described 
(Book II, 59) when European travelers visited Behbeit in the early eighteenth century. 
Confusion between Behbeit and Busiris lasted for some time. Since the Behbeit temple 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 190 

had a short existence, the question as to whether it is the "Iseum" quoted in Roman 
sources remains to be confirmed. 

The history of the site is poorly known. Although inscriptions were copied from 
blocks on the surface 100 years ago, archaeological investigations have been minimal. 
The only excavations were by the Montet Mission in the late 1940s and early 1950s, 
when blocks in the southeast corner of the temple were excavated. Consequently, there is 
not much historical information about the cults even though the names of the builders of 
the temple (Nectanebo II, Ptolemy II, Ptolemy III) are known. 

From the New Kingdom onward texts mention the name of the site, Per-hebite(t), or 
the name of the temple, Hebit, but this evidence is problematic since both names also 
occur in other parts of Egypt. The earliest textual reference to Per-hebite(t) is from the 
reign of Amenhotep III. One isolated block of granite inscribed in the Ramesside period 
(19th-20th Dynasties) is not convincing evidence for a temple dating to this period, as 
reused blocks taken from Ramesside sites are well known at post-Ramesside sites in the 
Delta (especially Tanis). Later textual evidence that cult statues of the last kings of the 
26th Dynasty were located here strongly suggests that a temple was also built here by 
these kings. 

According to a text of the Third Intermediate Period, Set-wah-ikhet is the other name 
of Behbeit. Rites at this time included the fabrication of clay statues of the god Osiris- 
Khenty-imentet. Three centuries later, an inscription on the base of a cult statue 
belonging to the last king of the 30th Dynasty (Nectanebo II), the temple or a part of it 
was given another name, Netjeri. 

Unfortunately, a plan cannot really be made until the site is properly excavated. 
Within the mudbrick walls, which have survived on three sides, granite blocks of various 
sizes are found toppled across the surface in high mounds. The temple was destroyed in 
ancient times, either by 

Entries A-Z 191 

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Behbeit el-Hagara temple 

an earthquake or the collapse of the whole building under its own weight. This occurred 
some time after the second century BC, as evidenced by the reuse of a Behbeit block in a 
temple in Rome dedicated to Isis and Serapis, either at the time of its founding in 43 BC, 
or when it was renovated under Domitian (AD 81-96). After the Behbeit temple's 
destruction, the site was used as a quarry by the local inhabitants. 

According to a tentative reconstruction, a ceremonial way was lined with Nectanebo 
IPs sphinxes. This led to a stone entranceway and hypostyle hall, added onto the main 
temple by Ptolemy III. Reliefs on the outer facade of the entrance give prominence to 
Osiris, and in the registers the king makes offerings to three aspects of this god. In the 
accompanying inscriptions, Isis is the main enactor of the cult rites: "Isis, Lady of Hebit 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 192 

who deposits offerings to her brother Osiris and who protects the great god within the 
[Hemag-] chapel." 

Many fragments of red granite columns, which probably belonged to the hypostyle, 
have been found in the area between the mudbrick enclosure walls and the temple proper. 
Accounts of eighteenth century travelers describe how these columns were sawed by the 
local inhabitants to make millstones and it is now difficult to reconstruct this area. On the 
south side of the hall, huge blocks of black granite form parts of a staircase which 
probably led to chapels on the roof of the main sanctuary. 

To the east of the hypostyle is the facade of the sanctuary of Isis. Reliefs here are 
about Isis and the kingship, which is inherited through her. In the lower register the king 
is presented to the goddess by the deities Homs-Behedety, Nekhbet and possibly Rayt. In 
the upper register Isis guarantees the king domination over foreign countries. 

The sanctuary of Isis, with its huge blocks of dark gray granite, is the most impressive 
part of the temple. Carved in high relief, the scenes here are mostly devoted to the cult of 
Isis. On the eastern wall is a very fragmentary hymn to Isis, one of the earliest known. 
Three chapels to Osiris are located to the east of the sanctuary, but it is not known if there 
was direct access to the chapels from the sanctuary or if it was closed off. The chapels are 
devoted to the rebirth of Osiris-Andjety as a young child and his transformation into a 

The "Prince" chapel (Hwt-Ser) and an adjacent room(?) are to the northeast of the 
sanctuary. This reconstitution, however, is based only on what remains of the lower 
register of the axial walls. According to religious tradition, the great Prince (Ser) from 
Andjet becomes a divine falcon in Behbeit. Possibly this was where the deified king 
Osiris-Nectanebo II achieved his transformation into the divine falcon. 

The chapel (Res-oudja) is representative, through its gods, of major religious centers 
in the Delta, such as Bubastis, Busiris, Mendes and Sais. The third and southernmost 
chapel, the "High House," has reliefs of gods (Anubis, Sobek, Thoth and Akhet) assuring 
the protection of Osiris. Possibly there were additional chapels on the temple roof: some 
of the blocks found on the surface came from roof constructions which would have been 
accessible by the staircase in the hypostyle hall. 

According to the temple inscriptions, it was built by Nectanebo II, but the decoration 
could not be completed. Apart from one or two exceptions, the cartouches of this king 
appear only on blocks belonging to a chapel dedicated to Osiris-Hemag, where the scenes 
are partly unfinished. The inscriptions were completed sixty years later by Ptolemy II, 
while Ptolemy III extended the building to the west. 

See also 

Busiris (Abu Sir Bana); Herodotus; Late and Ptolemaic periods, overview; Mendes, 
Dynastic evidence; Tanis (San el-Hagar); Tell Basta 

Further reading 

Favard-Meeks, C. 1991. Le temple de Behbeit el-Hagara. Hamburg. 

Entries A-Z 193 

Montet, P. 1949. Les divinites du temple de Behbeit el-Hagar. Kemi 10:43-8. 


Belzoni, Giovanni Baptista 

Trained in hydraulic engineering, Giovanni Belzoni (1778-1823) left his native Italy in 
1803 to escape political unrest. He immigrated to England and supported himself for a 
while as a strongman in the Sadlers Wells theater, where he was billed as the "Paduan 
Giant," due to his immense size (6'7", 200cm) and strength. He married Sarah (1783- 
1870), who accompanied him on subsequent travels. 

In hope of selling his invention of a water wheel to Egypt's ruler, Mohammed Ali, he 
traveled to Egypt in 1816, where he met the British Consul-General and antiquities 
collector, Henry Salt, who seized upon the idea of using this professional "strongman" to 
wrest colossal statues from monuments and maneuver them onto boats for shipment to 
England. The most challenging of these was the 7.5ton bust of Ramesses II from his 
mortuary temple (the Ramesseum) on the west bank at Thebes. The attempt was 
ingenious and successful, and this and many other large sculptures reached the British 
Museum safely. 

Having met its discoverer, Johann Ludwig Burchardt, Belzoni was eager to visit the 
rock-cut temple of Abu Simbel in Nubia, and once there found the entrance. By removing 
part of a sand dune, he was able to copy some of the wall scenes and collect, after first 
drawing them on a scale plan, portable artifacts for his employer, Salt. 

Returning to Luxor, Belzoni was the first westerner to investigate the Valley of the 
Kings, finding four royal tombs in twelve days. The last of these was the extensive and 
richly decorated tomb of Seti I, whose brilliantly colored scenes appeared freshly painted. 
This was to be Belzoni's greatest discovery, and one he took pains to preserve for 
posterity by making wax casts of the walls and a complete record in watercolors. 

In 1818, Belzoni opened Khafre's pyramid at Giza, by way of its original hidden 
entrance. Upon returning to Luxor, he found agents of the French Consul threatening 
reprisals and claiming territory among the monuments, so he left to search for the 
Ptolemaic Red Sea port of Berenike. This arduous desert journey was followed by a 
return upriver to Philae in the company of William Bankes, who desired one of its 
obelisks for his estate at Kingston Lacey in Dorset, England. 

After accomplishing this feat, Belzoni returned to Luxor to retrieve Seti I's 
magnificent alabaster sarcophagus and the wax impressions. While in Alexandria 
awaiting departure for England, Belzoni made a solo exploration of the Fayum and the 
oases of Baharia and Farafra in search of Alexander's temple of Zeus-Amen, but for 
political reasons he was prevented from traveling to Siwa, its actual location. 

Back in London after a ten-year absence, Belzoni was hailed in 1820 by the Times as 
the "celebrated traveller." Before the year was out, he published a two-volume book on 
his extraordinary career in Egypt: Narrative of the Operations and Recent Discoveries 
within the Pyramids, Temples, and Excavations, in Egypt and Nubia; and a Journey to 
the Coast of the Red Sea in Search of the Ancient Berenice and Another to the Oases of 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 194 

Jupiter Ammon (London, 1820). A folio of plates was available with this publication and 
it was a huge success, going into a second English edition and translated into Italian, 
French and German. In May 1821, Belzoni mounted a very popular exhibition of Seti I's 
reproduced tomb (its two best halls), a model of Abu Simbel and the cross-section of 
Khafre's pyramid, along with his own antiquities, papyri and mummies. This won him 
fame, but by early 1822 the intrepid explorer was restless and returned to Africa to search 
for the sources of the river Niger, only to die of dysentery and be buried in a now lost 
grave in Benin. 

While castigated by some for his "rampageous methods" of opening tombs, Belzoni 
exhibited respect and intelligent appreciation for the art he uncovered and his copies have 
preserved information of walls now defaced. Through exhibition and publication, Belzoni 
helped in large measure to educate the early nineteenth-century public about the culture 
of ancient Egypt. Today his legacy is apparent in the many important sculptures which 
enhance the collection of the British Museum, thanks to his efforts. 

See also 

Abu Simbel; Siwa Oasis, Late period and Graeco-Roman sites 

Further reading 

Dawson, W.R., and E.P.Uphill. 1995. Who Was Who in Egyptology, 3rd edn, M.L.Briebrier. 

Fagan, B.M. 1975. The Rape of the Nile. New York. 
Mayes, S. 1959. The Great Belzoni. London. 


Beni Hasan 

The ancient cemetery at Beni Hasan (27°56' N, 30°53' E) is on the east bank of the Nile, 
some 23km south of Minya, in Nome XVI of Upper Egypt, the Oryx nome. The whole 
area was a necropolis for civil and military officials, dating from the Old Kingdom to the 
30th Dynasty, with a gap in the New Kingdom. The most important group of tombs is the 
Middle Kingdom cemetery of the nomarchs (governors) and their officials, north of the 
modern town. To the south of the tombs is a temple built by Hatshepsut, known as the 
"Speos Artemidos," dedicated to a local lion goddess. 

The tombs were visited and described during the nineteenth century by Nestor l'Hote, 
Bonomi and Saint-Ferriol, and published in the first half of that century by Ippolio 
Rosellini and Jean-Francois Champollion. The most complete study of the larger tombs 
was conducted for the Egypt Exploration Fund by George W.Fraser and Percy 

Entries A-Z 195 

E.Newberry, who published four volumes (1893-1900). Smaller pit burials in the hillside 
below the large tombs were later excavated by John Garstang. 

Of the thirty-nine rock-cut tombs, oriented approximately east-west, only twelve have 
inscriptions. Some of them are unfinished; others, which are very small and crudely 
made, were not described by Newberry, who simply published their plans. All the tombs 
are preceded by a small, rock-cut court. The mouth of the tomb shaft lies in the floor of 
the main room. 

The rock-cut tombs can be divided into three groups. The first type is composed of a 
simple square room, sometimes with a slightly vaulted roof. The second type consists of a 
rectangular room whose roof is supported by one or two rows of lotus-bud columns, each 
pair of which is surmounted by an architrave. Of this group, Tomb 18, although 
unfinished, is worthy of mention. It consists of a hall with a vaulted roof supported by 
four rows of three lotus-bud columns. The third tomb type has a more complex plan, 
consisting of (a) an open court, (b) a rectangular portico with a vaulted roof supported by 
two columns surmounted by an architrave, (c) a square main chamber with two rows of 
two columns with longitudinal architraves, and (d) a shrine with the statue of the 
deceased and, in some instances, of his relatives. In this tomb type, the portico columns 
are eight-sided, while the columns of the main chamber are sixteen-sided. 

Tomb paintings include scenes of daily life, offering scenes, representations of the 
deceased and his relatives, and the pilgrimage to Abydos. More unusual are detailed 
scenes of battles and hunting in the desert, and scenes of athletic games and dancing, 
which depict motion. Worthy of mention are the scenes in the main chamber of Baqet 
Ill's tomb (no. 15), and those in Kheti's tomb (no. 17). Both were nomarchs of the Oryx 
nome, with the title of "Great Chief of the Oryx Nome in its entirety." A similar freedom 
and originality also characterize the paintings of the smaller, simpler tombs. In the tomb 
of Khnumhotep II (no. 3) is a well-known scene of a caravan of Asiatics. 

Notable inscriptions include some of the nomarchs' autobiographies (especially that of 
Khnumhotep II), which give historical information about the nome during the 12th 
Dynasty. From these inscriptions we learn that King Amenemhat I redefined the 
boundaries of each town and the nome borders, dividing it into two parts. It was the king 
himself who appointed the nomarch to administer the district. 

See also 

Canaanites; Middle Kingdom, overview; representational evidence, Middle Kingdom 
private tombs 

Further reading 

Garstang, J. 1907. The Burial Customs of Ancient Egypt as Illustrated by Tombs of the Middle 

Kingdom. London. 
Junge, F. 1975. Beni Hassan. lA 1:695-8. 

Montet, P. 1909. Notes sur les tombeaux de Beni Hassan. BIFAO 9:1-36. 
Newberry, P.E. 1893-1900. Beni Hasan, 4 vols. London. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 196 

Porter, B., and R.L.B.Moss. 1934. Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Texts, Reliefs, 
and Paintings 4, 141-63. Oxford. 



The third century BC-sixth century AD Red Sea port of Berenike (also Berenice, modern 
Medinet el-Haras; 23°55' N, 35°28' E) is about 820km south of Clysma-Cleopatris- 
Arsinoe-Qolzoum (near Suez), and about 260km east of Aswan. Pliny the Elder (in 
Natural History 6.33.168) claims that Ptolemy II Philadelphus (283-246 BC) founded the 
emporium and named it after his mother. The foundation of Berenike was part of a 
broader plan by Ptolemy II and his immediate successors of Eastern Desert road and Red 
Sea port construction. The latest ancient reference to activity at Berenike is in the 
Martyrium Arethae, which records in AD 524/5 a Roman proposal to support militarily 
the Aksumites, whose kingdom was in northern Ethiopia/Eritrea, in a war against the 
Himyarites (in southern Arabia). 

The bulk of the literary references relate to Berenike's role in the Red Sea-Indian 
Ocean trade and its connection by trans-desert roads to the Nile at Apollinopolis Magna 
(Edfu) in Ptolemaic times, and to Coptos (Quft/Qift) from the early Roman period 
onward (e.g. Strabo, Geography; Pliny the Elder, Natural History; Periplus of the 
Erythrian Sea). The late first century BC to first century AD Nicanor archive of ostraca 
seems to deal more with trade between the Nile and Berenike and Myos Hormos, and less 
with transit trade from the Nile to other Red Sea/Indian Ocean emporia passing through 
Berenike and Myos Hormos. Berenike appears on several ancient maps and in various 
itineraries, including those of Clau-dius Ptolemy (Geography), the Tabula Peutingeriana, 
the Itinerarium Antoniniana and the Ravenna Cosmography. 

Berenike lent its name to the region governed by a Roman military official as early as 
AD 11. The territory, in all likelihood, spanned the region in Upper Egypt somewhere 
between the Nile and the Red Sea. The area was under civilian administration by the 
reign of Hadrian, but seems to have reverted to military control some time thereafter. 

The Portuguese explorer Joam de Castro knew of Berenike and came close to 
discovering it in 1541. In the eighteenth century, J.B. Bourguignon d'Anville also knew 
about the site, but failed to locate the ancient remains. The first modern explorer to visit 
the ruins was Giovanni Belzoni in 1818. Thereafter, numerous European travelers visited, 
commented upon and collected artifacts from the site. In 1826 J.G. Wilkinson drew the 
first plan of the ancient remains and he and several other visitors, including Belzoni, 
J.R.Wellsted, Golenischeff and Bent, either "cleared" the Serapis temple or otherwise 
commented upon the ruins. Early twentieth-century visitors such as Daressy and Murray 
add little to the earlier accounts. 

Excavations conducted since 1994 by the University of Delaware and Leiden 
University have demonstrated activity at the port between the third century BC and late 
fifth/early sixth century AD. The Ptolemaic town seems to have been farther north and 
west of the Roman emporium due to silting of the harbor by local wadi water run-off, 

Entries A-Z 197 

which more than offset an estimated l-2m rise in sea level since Hellenistic times. Built 
mainly of locally available materials (coral heads, gypsum ashlars, sandbricks, field 
cobbles and boulders from nearby mountains, and occasionally courses of timber: acacia, 
mangrove, teak and pine), the edifices reflect a basically utilitarian function. Some 
buildings had walls or floors revetted in marble or covered with tapestries. 

On the eastern and southeastern parts of the site excavations have identified 
warehouses, a food preparation area and, possibly, a temple. The center of the site 
immediately north of the Serapis temple has large, probably public, structures of 
unknown function. Farther west a building contained fragments of at least two nearly life- 
size bronze statues, other artifacts of a religious nature, over 100 wooden bowls, a small 
gypsum sphinx built into the lower wall, and two inscriptions. One of these is in Greek, 
the other is in Greek-Palmyrene, which indicates the presence of Palmyrene auxiliary 
troops (from Syria). 

West and northwest of town was the main industrial area (for brick-making, metal and 
perhaps glass production). North of the town was a massive Roman trash dump, which 
seems to overlay earlier Ptolemaic structures. 

Archaeological evidence reveals much about the trade and the inhabitants. Indian fine, 
coarse and shipping wares, a first century AD Tamil-Brahmi (south Indian) graffito, over 
1,200 peppercorns, coconuts, sorghum, rice, Job's tears and teak wood attest to contacts 
with the Indian Ocean basin throughout the Roman occupation of Berenike. A garbled 
Ethiopic/ South Arabian/North Arabian inscription of circa AD 400 indicates contacts 
with one or more of those lands. Roman pottery comes from as far west as Spain, Italy, 
North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, including the Aegean, Asia Minor and Syro- 
Palestine. Numerous ostraca of the early Roman period relate to activities at the port. 
Elephants for military use were the main commodity imported to Berenike in the early 
Ptolemaic period aboard specially constructed ships called elephantagoi. In Roman times, 
imports to and exports from Berenike were mainly consumer goods. 

Pig bones suggest the presence of a more Romanized Mediterranean population in the 
early Roman period. The dearth of pig bones and presence of large quantities of goat, 
sheep and camel byproducts in one part of the city in late antiquity, and large numbers of 
fish bones in other parts of the city at that time, suggest that at least two different cultural 
groups lived there contemporaneously. Ceramics of a Nubian/desert origin found in 
conjunction with the extensive goat, sheep and camel fauna suggest a desert-dwelling 
population, perhaps including the Blemmyes, whose presence in the region is attested in 
late antique sources (Ammianus Marcellinus; Priscus, History; Olympiodorus, History; 
Procopius, History of the Wars', Martyrium Arethae). Small decorated artifacts (jewelry, 
textiles, wood carvings) suggest a degree of wealth among some of the port's inhabitants. 

An elaborate road network joined Berenike to the small and large forts in the Wadi 
Kalalat (perhaps the source of much of Berenike's drinking water), the settlements at 
Shenshef, Hitan Rayan and the first station (at Vetus Hydreuma/Wadi Abu Greiya) on the 
road leading to the Nile. These routes are marked by cairns, graves, cemeteries and the 
occasional building. Although there are scattered sites between Berenike and Aswan (at 
el-Ileiga, Abraq, Bir Abu Hashim and the amethyst mining settlements at Wadi el-Hudi), 
there is no solid evidence for a road linking Berenike directly with Aswan in antiquity. 
Ras (Cape) Banas to the north somewhat protected Berenike from the strong north winds 
and ships may have been hauled across it to avoid long trips around the peninsula. The 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 198 

reason for the port's decline and abandonment is uncertain, but in the early Islamic period 
it was superseded by Aydhab/Suakin el-Qadim to the south. 

See also 

Quft/Qift (Coptos); Roman forts in Egypt; Roman period, overview; Roman ports, Red 
Sea; Wadi el-Hudi 

Further reading 

Blockley, R.C. 1983. The Fragmentary Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire. 

Eunapius, Olympiodorus, Priscus, and Malchus 2: Text, Translation, and Historiographical 

Notes. Liverpool. 
Daressy, G. 1922. Berenice et el Abraq. ASAE 22:169-84. 
Meredith, D. 1957. Berenice Troglodytica. TEA 43:56-70. 
Ruffing, K. 1993. Das Nikanor-Archiv und der romische Slid- und Osthandel. Miinstersche 

Beitrdge zur antiken Handelsgeschichte 12(2): 1-26. 
Sidebotham, S.E., and W.Z.Wendrich. 1996. Berenike: Roman Egypt's maritime gateway to Arabia 

and India. Egyptian Archaeology 8: 15-18. 
, eds. 1998. Berenike 1996: Report of the 1996 Excavations at Berenike (Egyptian Red Sea 

Coast) and the Survey of the Eastern Desert. Leiden. 
Sidebotham, S.E., and R.E.Zitterkopf. 1995. Routes through the Eastern Desert of Egypt. 

Expedition 37(2):39-52. 


Berenike Panchrysos 

Berenike Panchrysos is an ancient town in the Nubian Desert which was located in 
February, 1989, by an expedition to the Wadi Allaqi led by Alfredo and Angelo 
Castiglioni and Gian-carlo Negro. Subsequent excavations were conducted there in 1990, 
1991, 1993, 1994, and 1997. The site is situated at 21°56'.93 N, 35°08'.88 E, and is circa 
550m 2 above sea level. 

Mentioned in the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder, who located the town between 
Berenike Trogloditica and Berenike Epi-Dire, Berenike Panchrysos is so named because 
gold quartz is abundant in the region. Called Deraheib (i.e. buildings) by the local Beja 
peoples, it was given the name Allaqi after the Arab invasion of the Nubian Desert. The 
Moorish explorer and geographer Ibn Sa'id al-Andalusi (AD 1206-86) wrote: "the 
mountainous region of Allaqi is famous for gold of the highest quality, which is mined in 
the Wadi." 

The same gold mines, called "Ma'din ad-Dahab," were also mentioned by the Arab 
geographer and astronomer al-Khwarezmi, who in AD 830 located the town with great 
precision at 21°45' N, which is only 20km from its actual position. The Egyptian 

Entries A-Z 199 

historian al-Maqrizi (AD 1364-1442) later wrote that "it was still possible to see traces of 
the Greeks (ar-Rum Ptolemaic people) in the mines." This suggests a lengthy period of 
mining activities after the Graeco-Roman period. 

In his Geographic ancienne abregee, published in Paris in 1768, the French 
geographer d'Anville located Berenike Panchrysos in the vicinity of "a mountain with 
mines where the Ptolemaic people extracted much gold. The mountains are called by 
Arab geographers Alaki or Ollaki." D'Anville, however, erroneously located the town on 
the map which accompanied his volume, and placed the Allaqi "Gebel" (mountain) close 
to the Red Sea. But these mountains, which are rich in gold-bearing quartz, are located in 
the heart of the Nubian Desert, 250km due west of the Red Sea (even though they are on 
the same latitude indicated by the French geographer). Subsequently, the site was visited 
by Linant de Bellefonds in 1832, but he did not understand its importance. 

During the recent excavations at Berenike Panchrysos, two Ptolemaic coins were 
discovered (one of which dates to Ptolemy Soter I). There was also much evidence of 
smelting, which, according to Marco Tizzoni, is similar to what has been found on the 
island of Kithnos (on the Peloponesian coast in Greece), dating to the Hellenistic period. 
Also discovered were a small faience head of the god Bes and a miniature bronze statue 
of Harpocrates, from the Graeco-Roman period. 

Among the numerous potsherds found at the site some can be dated to the 15th 
Dynasty as well as the end of the 30th Dynasty. The town was a major center of the Beja 
kingdom (known to the Romans as the "Blemmyes," nomadic peoples living in the Red 
Sea Hills to the east of the Nile). In circa AD 425 Olympiodorus visited the emerald 
mines in the Eastern Desert, with the permission of the Blemmye king, and wrote that the 
Blemmyes had built four towns in the Nile Valley, the southernmost one of which was 
Kasr Ibrim. However, the king of the Blemmyes himself did not actually live on the river 
but in the desert interior. Excavations conducted by Sir Leonard Woolley at Karanog, a 
town in Nubia near Kasr Ibrim, uncovered a fortress which is architecturally identical to 
the largest fortress at Berenike Panchrysos. If Kasr Ibrim and Karanog were centers of 
the Blemmyes in the Nile Valley, then Berenike Panchrysos may have been their capital 
in the desert. Ibn Sa'id al-Andalusi wrote that "the city of Allaqi was the royal city of the 
Beja king." However, by AD 861 it had been conquered by the Arabs. Its wealth and 
power was such that the sultan of Allaqi was even able to declare his independence from 
the caliph of Baghdad. In fact, jointly ruled by the Beja and Hadareb Muslims, the town 
in the tenth century boasted a standing army of 3,000 horsemen and 30,000 Beja 
tribesmen mounted on camels. Only further excavations can give a more complete 
picture. One fact, however, remains certain: for centuries Berenike Panchrysos was the 
most important gold mining center of the ancient world. 

Today at the site of Berenike Panchrysos two imposing fortresses and numerous 
houses can be seen, stretching more than 2km along a bend in the Wadi Allaqi. The main 
group of houses are located on a north-south axis about 400m long. They are slightly 
elevated above the bottom of the wadi to provide protection from infrequent flash floods. 

On the east-west axis, the average length of these houses is circa 150m. Some 
buildings are more carefully constructed with rough schist slabs in mortar. Others have 
walls of skillfully laid, loose stone. The houses extend along a main road circa 6m wide, 
which is flanked by at least two narrower parallel streets: the eastern 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 200 

Figure 16 The town of Berenike 

one runs along the foot of the hills and the western one is aligned in the direction of the 
wadi. The principal road is intersected by secondary streets, which enclose a central 
square and the various quarters of the town. This suggests that the town was planned and 
laid out before any construction was undertaken. 

The main fortress has massive walls more than 25m in length. It is constructed with 
schist slabs, which in some sections are 6m high, revealing the original elevation of three 
stories. The very low entrance of the fortress is located at the foot of a semi-cylindrical, 
partly ruined tower. Inside, a series of arches lead to small, well-preserved rooms. A 
second fortress is 50m to the south; it is also a rectangular construction and resembles a 
Roman praesidium, similar to those built along the desert caravan routes. In the interior 
of this fortress a ramp made of rough stones leads to the battlements. Constructed along 
the walls around the courtyards are rooms with arches in different styles. 

The mines are located in the hills surrounding the town. Excavated galleries and shafts 
reveal that gold-bearing veins of quartz were worked for many centuries. 

See also 

metallurgy; Roman forts in Egypt; Wadi Hammamat 

Further reading 

Adams, W.Y. 1977. Nubia: Corridor to Africa. London. 

Entries A-Z 201 

— . 1994. Castle-houses of late medieval Nubia. Archeologie du Nil Moyen 6:11-47. 
— . Castiglioni, A.A. and J.Verioutter. 1995. L'Eldorado dei fardoni. Milan 1998. Das Goldland 
der Pharaonen. Mainz. 

Figure J 7 The main fortress, Berenike 

Emery, W.B. 1965. Egypt in Nubia. London. 

Kirwan, L.P. 1982. Nubia and Nubian origins. Geographical Journal 140:43-52. 

O'Connor D. 1983. New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period. In Ancient Egypt: A Social 

History, B.G.Trigger, B.J.Kemp, D.O'Connor and A.B.Lloyd, 183-278. Cambridge. 
Sadr, K. 1987. The territorial expanse of the Pan-Grave culture. Archeologie du Nil Moyen 2:265- 

Vantini, G. 1975. Oriental Sources Concerning Nubia. Warsaw. 
Vercoutter, J. 1959. The gold of Kush. Kush 7: 120-53. 


Bir Umm Fawakhir 

Bir Umm Fawakhir (26°02' N, 33°36' E) lies in the central Eastern Desert about halfway 
between the Nile at Quft (Coptos) and the Red Sea at Quseir. The site is a large Coptic/ 
Byzantine gold-mining town datable to the late fifth through sixth centuries AD by Greek 
wine jar labels and by the pottery. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 202 

There is evidence of pre-Coptic activity at the site, perhaps as early as the Turin 
Papyrus, which may reasonably be interpreted as a 20th Dynasty map showing the route 
to the stone quarries in the Wadi Hammamat and beyond to a "Mountain of Gold" and a 
"Mountain of Silver." Nineteenth-century travelers reported a Ptolemy III temple 
dedicated to Min; it has been destroyed by mining activity, but a piece of a column with 
cartouches survives near the modern rest house. Although Bir Umm Fawakhir has long 
been called Roman, remains from that period are actually quite sparse. The Roman 
caravan route to the Red Sea certainly passed by the wells at Bir Umm Fawakhir, as 
indicated by one of about sixty signal towers marking the ancient road. A nearby cave 
preserves some Greek graffiti of the first-third centuries AD, and one in South Arabic. A 
few Roman sherds and faience fragments have been recovered, and the small granite 
quarries are probably Roman as well. The sixty-odd ostraca published by Gueraud pertain 
to Roman military activity in the area, but the ostraca may actually have been recovered 
from the Wadi el-Sid mines. 

Bir Umm Fawakhir and its immediate vicinity are on the Precambrian Fawakhir 
granite. The granite is economically valuable as quarry stone, as the aquifer for wells, and 
above all for the gold mines. The metal occurs in quartz veins in the granite. In antiquity 
the ore was mined by surface trenches or shafts cut into the mountain sides. The quartz 
was crushed with small granite blocks into chunks that in turn were ground to powder on 
concave grinding stones with an upper hand stone or in rotary querns. Both rotary and 
concave grinding stones are abundant on site, though generally reused for building or 
loose on the surface. The powdered ore was probably washed at Bir Umm Fawakhir but 
carried to the Nile valley for final purification. 

The archaeological remains at Bir Umm Fawakhir consist of a main settlement in a 
long narrow wadi whose steep cliffs limit the site like town walls, and whose sandy 
bottom serves as the main street. More than 200 houses and outbuildings line both sides 
of the main street. The ancient population of the main settlement is estimated at a little 
over 1,000. Although the buildings are constructed of rough granite cobbles chinked with 
small stones and sherds, the ruins are sufficiently well preserved that doors, benches, wall 
niches, and a few other built-in features such as troughs or cists can still be seen. Almost 
all of the buildings appear to be domestic in nature. The basic house unit consists of two 
or three rooms, though several of these units may be built together into agglomerated 
houses of as many as twenty-two rooms. There are also many detached square or rounded 
one-room outbuildings; whether they were used for storage, kitchens, animal shelters, 
workshops, latrines or for some other purpose is not yet known. 

The cemeteries, all looted, lie on ridges overlooking the site. The graves are either 
cists built of stone slabs or natural clefts in the 

Entries A-Z 203 

Figure 18 Bir Umm Fawakhir main 
settlement, southeast end 

granite; they are so short that the bodies must have been flexed. Rough granite cobbles 
were piled on top, and a considerable amount of Coptic/Byzantine pottery is scattered 
around the cairns. Crosses stamped on dishes indicate a Christianized population. 

A guardpost is situated on one of the highest peaks where it commands a view of the 
main settlement, all three roads leading to the wells, and some of the mines and quarries. 
Apart from the guardpost, however, no defensive structures at all have been found, which 
is somewhat surprising in a desert where security was often a concern. Nor have any 
churches, warehouses, animal stables or administrative buildings been located; they may 
have lain closer to the modern road where wadi wash is heaviest. In addition to the main 
settlement, there are at least 14 other outlying clusters of ruins, one with over sixty 
buildings. All have the same kind of construction and layout as the main settlement, and 
the same type of pottery. 

Bir Umm Fawakhir is the only ancient gold-mining community in Egypt, and one of 
only a few within the Byzantine Empire, to have been intensively investigated. It is one 
of the few cases where not only the layout of an entire ancient community, but also 
peripheral features such as industrial areas, roads, paths, wells, cemeteries and outlying 
clusters of ruins, can be seen. Older accounts of Byzantine Egypt say that the Eastern 
Desert was virtually abandoned to nomadic tribesmen. The lack of defenses at Bir Umm 
Fawakhir as well as the growing number of archaeologically investigated desert sites 
such as Abu Sha'ar, Berenike, Bir Nakheil, Khasm el-Menih and Mons Porphyrites 
suggest that the Byzantine government not only ruled the desert, but maintained sizable 
operations there. 

See also 

Abu Sha'ar; Berenike Panchrysos; Mons Porphyrites; Roman forts in Egypt; Wadi 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 204 

Further reading 

Gueraud, O. 1942. Ostraca grecs et latins de l'Wadi Fawakhir. BIFAO 41:141-96. 
Meyer, C. 1995a. Gold, granite, and water: The Bir Umm Fawakhir Survey 1992. AASOR. 

. 1995b. A Byzantine gold-mining town in the Eastern Desert of Egypt: Bir Umm Fawakhir, 

1992-1993. Journal of Roman Archaeology 8:192-224. 


Breasted, James Henry 

James Henry Breasted, American Egyptologist, Orientalist and historian, was born in 
Rockford, Illinois on 27 August 1865, the second child and elder son of Charles and 
Harriet Garrison Breasted. In the summer of 1873, the Breasted family moved to 
Downers Grove, Illinois, where James grew up and attended a small rural school. In 
1880, he began to take classes sporadically at North-Western (now North Central) 
College in Naperville, Illinois, where he eventually received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 
1890. In the meantime, Breasted worked as a clerk in local drugstores and entered the 
Chicago College of Pharmacy in 1882, whence he graduated in 1886. He then was 
employed as a professional pharmacist and acquired much knowledge about drugs, which 
was to prove useful in later life when he was dealing with ancient Egyptian medical texts. 

In 1887, Breasted began the study of Hebrew at the Congregational Institute (now 
Chicago Theological Seminary) in Chicago, Illinois, and subsequently was enrolled at 
Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut in 1890-1, where he was awarded a Master 
of Arts degree in absentia in 1892. With the encouragement of William Rainey Harper, 
then Professor of Hebrew at Yale University, Breasted went to Berlin in 1891 to study 
Egyptology with Professor Adolf Erman, who himself had been a student of Richard 
Lepsius. Breasted became the first American to earn a Ph.D. in Egyptology (University of 
Berlin, 15 August 1894) and the first to receive an appointment to teach the subject in an 
American university (University of Chicago). He was associated with the University of 
Chicago for the rest of his life, serving as Director of the Haskell Oriental Museum 
(1901-35) and Professor of Egyptology and Oriental History (1905-35). His first 
appointment at the University of Chicago began with a six-month leave of absence, 
during which time he was scheduled to do exploration work in Egypt. 

On 22 October 1894, Breasted married Frances Hart, a 21-year-old American student 
whom he had met in Berlin. The Breasteds went on to have two sons, Charles and James, 
Jr, and a daughter, Astrid. The newlyweds spent a working honeymoon in Egypt during 
the winter of 1894-5, and Breasted acquired several thousand Egyptian antiquities for the 
new Haskell Oriental Museum (since 1931, the Oriental Institute Museum) at the 
University of Chicago. 

During the next twenty-five years, the publication of a series of textbooks and 
technical works established James Henry Breasted as one of the senior Orientalists in the 
United States. From 1900 to 1904, he collected data for the great Berlin Worterbuch der 
Agyptischen Sprache, and the German academies in Berlin, Leipzig, Munich and 

Entries A-Z 205 

Gottingen asked him to copy and arrange hieroglyphic inscriptions in their collections. 
During the same period he began work on the most important ancient Egyptian historical 
texts, including many unpublished ones, with the intention of producing a sourcebook of 
English translations for the benefit of historians in general; the accumulated 10,000 
manuscript pages of translations and commentary were published in five volumes as 
Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents from the Earliest Times to the Persian 
Conquest. This major corpus of primary source material enabled the ancient Egyptians to 
speak for themselves and served as the basis for Breasted's popular book, A History of 
Egypt from the Earliest Times down to the Persian Conquest, in which he drew his 
conclusions from his translations of the ancient texts. 

Breasted's wife Frances died in 1934. On 7 June 1935, Breasted married Imogen Hart 
Richmond, the divorced younger sister of his late wife. James Henry Breasted died of a 
streptococcic infection in New York City on 2 December 1935. He is best remembered as 
the founder of the Oriental Institute as a research center for the study of the ancient Near 
East at the University of Chicago. Breasted's vision established three related types of 
research at the Oriental Institute: archaeological field work and excavation; salvage and 
epigraphic recording of standing monuments for publication; and the preparation of basic 
reference works, such as dictionaries and grammatical studies. 

See also 

Egyptology, history of; Lepsius, Carl Richard; Reisner, George Andrew 

Further reading 

Breasted, C. 1943. Pioneer to the Past: The Story of James Henry Breasted, Archaeologist. New 

Breasted, J.H. 1905. A History of Egypt from the Earliest Times down to the Persian Conquest. 

New York. 
. 1906-7. Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents from the Earliest Times to the 

Persian Conquest. Chicago. 


brewing and baking 

In tomb scenes, bread and beer are represented as essentials for the sustenance and 
pleasure of the dead. In daily life they were the staples for Egyptians of all classes. They 
also played an important economic role in this moneyless society. Bread and beer (or 
their ingredients) were collected as taxes and given to workers as wages. 

These two foods share fundamental ingredients and some steps in production, and 
were made in the same or adjacent facilities. They often appear together in tomb scenes. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 206 

For example, in the 5th Dynasty tomb of Ti, steps common to brewing and baking are 
shown in a central register, above which are steps specific to brewing, and below, steps in 
baking. A detailed model of a combined bakery and brewery was included in the 11th 
Dynasty tomb equipment of Meket-Re. Beer dregs and breweries of Predynastic date are 
known from several Upper Egyptian sites. Actual remains of a leavened bread from el- 
Badari and both wheat and barley bread from el-Omari also date to late prehistoric times. 

Emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum) and barley (Hordeum vulgare) are by far the most 
common grains of ancient Egypt, while other varieties of these species and some millets 
have also been identified. During Dynastic times, flour was prepared by pounding 
threshed grain in stone mortars, then grinding it between a portable, flat-bottomed or 
rounded hand-stone, and a corresponding inclined stone embedded in a bin to catch the 
flour. Such quern emplacements have been found in situ at, for example, Lahun and Tell 
el-Amarna. Grinding stones are not uncommon finds at Egyptian sites having a domestic 
component. Grit from grinding flour inevitably was baked into bread, and the 
considerable tooth wear suffered by ancient Egyptians is attributed to this. Sieves made 
of rushes were used for cribbling flour, and also for straining beer mash. 

The simplest Egyptian bread was made from flour mixed with water and salt, shaped 
into a flat, round loaf and baked either on a stone griddle, on the floor or interior wall of a 
clay bread oven, or in ashes. In appearance and production, it resembles the modern 
Egyptian 'aish baladi (pita bread). 

A sourdough method was employed for leavened bread. Remnants of a previous batch 
of dough or barm (a yeasty froth evolved during brewing) from a batch of beer was 
mixed with new dough and allowed to ferment, or "sour," overnight. Attempts to verify 
deliberate addition of domesticated yeasts to bread or beer are inconclusive prior to 1500 
BC, but a yeast, Saccharomyces winlocki, is known from that time. The hieroglyph for 
bread (t) resem-bles a round, risen loaf, similar to the modern Egyptian 'aish shemsi. 

Some loaves were braided or coiled, and triangular, pyramidal and zooform shapes are 
known. Sometimes cavities were made in a loaf for a portion of food. Bread was also 
baked in clay pots or molds, some of which were greased and reused, while others were 
crudely modeled around conical wooden forms and broken to free the loaf after baking. 
Large quantities of broken molds are often found in ancient villages. Some breads or 
cakes were made from a dough to which milk, eggs or butter had been added, and then 
baked with, for example, cumin, nuts, honey, dates or other fruits. 

Beer has been called ancient Egypt's "national drink." It was nutritious and highly 
caloric, containing protein, B vitamins and live yeast. It was brewed in the same manner 
as modern bouza: lightly baked bread is crumbled into water, then malted (sprouted) 
cereal, the remainder of an old batch of beer or yeast, and flavoring agents are added. The 
mash is gently heated for several hours and then allowed to ferment for a day or more, 
growing stronger until it spoils by about the fifth day. In Dynastic times dates, which 
enhance the supply of simple sugars for fermentation, were the favored additive. Tomb 
scenes show that the final product was either eaten unfiltered as a thin gruel or sieved and 
consumed as a beverage, which was sipped through a straw placed in the clear level 
between floating barm and sediment. There are words for many varieties and qualities of 
beer, but M"'was the generic term. 

Breweries are virtually unknown archaeologically From the Dynastic period, but 
several Predynastic ones have been identified at Hierakonpolis (circa 3500-3400 BC; 

Entries A-Z 207 

Nagada Ib-IIa). They consist of a series of deep, conical vats with a dark, sugary residue 
in which wheat and barley, and fragments of dates and grape pips, were found. Similar 
features at Ballas and Mahasna, and what were previously published as grain-parching 
kilns at Abydos, are now recognized as breweries. The Egyptian evidence for brewing is 
the world's earliest. 

See also 

agriculture, introduction of; subsistence and diet in Dynastic Egypt; taxation and 
conscription; wine making 

Further reading 

Darby, W.J., P.Ghaliounghi and L.Grivetti. 1977. Food: The Gift of Osiris 2. London. 

Geller, J.R. 1993. Bread and beer in fourth-millennium Egypt. Food and Foodways: Explorations 

in the History and Culture of Human Nourishment 5 (3):255-67. 
Wilson, H. 1988. Egyptian Food and Drink. Aylesbury. 


Busiris (Abu Sir Bana) 

Busiris is the Greek name of several pharaonic towns in Egypt (nine are known at 
present), where a cult center of the god Osiris existed. One of these towns, famous for its 
prehistoric finds, was at Abusir el-Melek (ancient Busir Quredis) in Middle Egypt, 
halfway between Beni Suef and the pyramid of Meydum. Another, now called Abusir, 
was located just north of Saqqara (about 11km south of Cairo); it is best known for its 5th 
Dynasty pyramids and the tombs of the families of high officials. Another Busiris, also 
known as Taposiris Magna (about 45km west of Alexandria), was an important town in 
the Ptolemaic period with a temple and an animal necropolis. 

The most famous Busiris is identified with modern Abu Sir Bana (30°55' N, 31°14' E) 
in the middle of the Nile Delta on the left bank of the Damietta branch, about 5.5km 
south of Samannud. The pharaonic name of the town was Djedu, derived from the 
symbol of the god Osiris, the d/ed-pillar (a hieroglyphic sign symbolizing "stability"). 
The first reference to this town appears in the Pyramid Texts. From the Old Kingdom 
until the Late period, Djedu served as the capital of Nome IX of Lower Egypt, named 
Andjet after the original deity of the town. Beginning in the Old Kingdom, however, 
Osiris became the principal deity of the town and it was later known as Per-Wsirj (neb 
Djedu), the "Temple of Osiris (lord of Djedu)." From this later town name were derived 
the Assyrian name Pushiru, the Greek Busiris, the Coptic Busir and the Arabic Abu Sir. 

Like Abydos, the other center of worship of Osiris in Upper Egypt, Busiris played a 
very important role in ancient Egyptian religion. It was believed to be the place where 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 208 

Osiris was born and where his tomb was located. In some periods his temple at Busiris 
was a place of pilgrimage. Besides Osiris, other deities, such as Isis, Horus, Shu, Anubis 
and Sobek, were also worshipped at Busiris and Herodotus (Book II 95, 61) mentions a 
large temple of Isis there. 

Not much is known about the early history of the town, but it played a role in the 
events of the Third Intermediate Period. When Piye (25th Dynasty) attacked Egypt, a 
Libyan prince ruled in Busiris. A few monuments of the Old and Middle Kingdoms, and 
also of the Late period, have been found at Abu Sir Bana, but the site has not been 
excavated. Artifacts, such as false doors and offering tables, have been found at Kom el- 
Akhdar, about 2km south of Abu Sir, and this may have been the cemetery of the 
pharaonic town. 

Regarding the other five towns named Busiris, we can only state that one was located 
near Quft (ancient Coptos) in Upper Egypt; another was near el-Ashmunein (Hermopolis 
Magna), but the exact locations of both are not known. The third Busiris was in the 
Fayum province, near the village of Itsa, now known as Abu Sir Difinnu. The fourth 
Busiris was east of Alexandria, and may be the old Taposiris Parva. The fifth and last 
town known with the name Busiris was situated 5km south of Abu Sir Bana (the famous 
Busiris); its name is now Bana Abu Sir. Nothing, however, is known about the history of 
these five towns in pharaonic times. 

See also 

Abusir; Abusir el-Meleq; el-Ashmunein; Herodotus; Marea; pantheon; Quft/Qift 
(Coptos); Taposiris Magna 

Further reading 

Fischer, H.G. 1977. Some early monuments from Busiris in the Egyptian Delta. MMJ: 157-76. 
Gomaa, F. 1987. Die Besiedlung Agyptens wahrend des Mittleren Reiches II, Unteragypten und die 
angrenzenden Gebiete. Beiheftzum Tubinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients 66 (2):137-42, 145. 


Buto (Tell el-Fara'in) 

The ancient site of Buto, today called Tell el-Fara'in (Mound of the Pharaohs) is located 
in the northern Delta, about 15km east of the Rosetta branch of the Nile and 30km south 
of the present coastline (31°12' N, 30°45' E). It consists of a mound about 1km 2 . Visible 
structures on the surface are the temple precinct, two settlement mounds up to 20m above 
the cultivated fields, and a cemetery. Two modern villages, Sekhmawy and Mohammed 
el-Baz, and a Muslim cemetery are on its edges. 

Entries A-Z 209 

The first test excavations were conducted at the site in 1904. During the 1960s 
excavations were conducted by the Egypt Exploration Society (EES), mainly in Graeco- 
Roman period strata in the temple area, but also on the southern settlement mound, in 
Late period strata. Since 1982 excavations have been conducted by the Universities of 
Alexandria and Tanta, and the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (EAO), in the temple 
and in parts of the cemetery dating from the Late to Roman periods. Since 1983 
investigations were also conducted by the German Archaeological Institute, Cairo and the 
Geographical Department of the University of Marburg (Germany). The most recent 
fieldwork included an archaeolgical survey of the site and its surroundings, and 
excavations at the western, lower edge of the tell, north and south of the village of 

Using a pumping system, the German excavations reached remains of the earliest 


Figure 19 Buto, mound at Tell el- 

A ancient settlement mound 

B temple precinct 

C ancient settlement mound 

D Graeco-Roman period cemetery 

E modern village of Sekhmawy 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 210 

F modern village of Mohammed el- 

G Muslim cemetery 

settlement, which are below the water table. On the western side of the site a sequence of 
seven main layers from four different periods of use were found: 

1 Layers I— II: the Predynastic of Lower Egypt (second half of the fourth millennium BC). 

2 Layers III-V: late Predynastic/Dynasty (Nagada III phase)/Early Dynastic (end of the 

fourth millennium BC and first centuries of the third millennium BC). 

3 Layer VI: early Old Kingdom (27th-26th centuries BC). 

4 Layer VII: Late period (7th-4th centuries BC). 

Written traditions 

The hieroglyphic spelling "House of Uto" (P r - * L '-2tfV), the name for the temple of the 
cobra goddess Uto, was the name of the town since Ramesside times (thirteenth century 
BC) and later became the Greek form Buto, while before that the names Pe and Dep were 
used. An even older name of the site, already in use in the fourth millennium BC, is that 
of the heron god Djebaut, who was worshipped there along with Horus (mainly 
connected with the Pe) and Uto (mainly connected with the Dep). Stressing the duality of 
the country, Buto symbolized the capital of Lower Egypt in rituals and myths, with 
Hierakonpolis its counterpart in Upper Egypt. 

It seems doubtful whether a prehistoric "kingdom" ever existed at Buto. The town, 
which was later in Nome VI of Lower Egypt (with Sais as the capital), must have lost 
political importance already in the Old Kingdom, and there is no textual evidence for it in 
the Middle Kingdom. It is first mentioned again in the 18th Dynasty, and in the Ptolemaic 
period it was capital of the "Phthenotes" nome, "The Land of Uto." 


Geological investigations demonstrated a huge underlying sand formation that 
accumulated during late Pleistocene and/or the early to mid-Holocene. Only below the 
western edge of the tell there is a gentle descent in the sand, where the oldest areas of 
occupation have been detected (Layers I-II). An area of about 200m 2 , with a thickness of 
nearly 2m, has been excavated here, which dates to the middle to late fourth millennium 
BC (equivalent to Nagada Ilb-IId phases of the Predynastic culture in Upper Egypt). 
However, evidence of structures, mainly from houses of wattle and daub, and artifacts, 
especially pottery and flint tools (but also copper ones), shows that the settlement 
belonged to a different, distinctly Lower Egyptian Predynastic culture known first from 
the settlement at Ma'adi (south of Cairo). This culture is now being found at other sites in 
the Delta, its apex, and in the Fayum. Due to the slightly different material cultures and 
chronologies, it is termed the "Buto-Ma'adi" culture. 

Entries A-Z 211 

Although divided into two layers (I-II), based on the excavated artifacts and 
stratigraphy, the earliest settlement at Buto exhibits cultural homogeneity. Pottery, about 
one-half of which is burnished, has a variety of decorations, including small oblique 
strokes or slashes and dots aligned horizontally below the rim. Indented rims have their 
origin in the Chalcolithic of southern Palestine. Only Layer I yielded potsherds with a 
decoration of whitish horizontal stripes, unknown at other sites in Egypt, but assumed to 
be inspired by a technique ("reserved spiral decoration") used in northern Syria. Typical 
of Layer II is pottery with a rocker stamp decoration (in most cases forming patterns of 
pointed triangles), also found at other sites in the Delta but not at Ma'adi. 

The stone tool industry is one of blades; the most frequent tool is a small twisted 
blade, which also has its origin in the Chalcolithic of Palestine. Copper, although found 
in very small quantities, was imported from Palestine (the Araba in southern Jordan), as 
was that at Ma'adi. Some artifacts were probably influenced by contacts with the Uruk 
culture of southern Mesopotamia or its colonies in northern Syria: more than a dozen 
finger-like clay objects, including a large one with a thick hollow at one end — similar to 
the clay cones found in southwest Asia which were used to make mosaic patterns in 
temple walls — were found. The local architecture at Buto to which these clay artifacts 
must have been applied is still missing. 

The lowest phase of Layer III at Buto is called "transitional," since it shows a 
remarkable change of artifacts from the Lower Egyptian Predynastic to the Upper 
Egyptian Nagada culture, which is interpreted as gradual cultural assimilation. 
Recognized at Buto for the first time in Egyptian archaeology, this shift dates to circa 
3300-3200 BC (Nagada II d phase). In the following stratigraphic phases an increasing 
use of mudbrick is found in buildings of the late Predynastic/Dynasty (Nagada III, in 
Layer III), and the beginning of the first Dynasty (in Layer IV), which were used at least 
in part for cultic activities. A building in Layer V, uncovered over an area of 25* 10m, 
has a complex arrangement of rooms with walls still standing up to 60cm, and evidence 
of plaster and colored decoration. Destroyed by fire, it contained few artifacts. While 
ceramic analysis excludes a date later than the 2nd Dynasty, a seal impression might date 
to Zoser's reign (3rd Dynasty). 

From the 3rd-4th Dynasties, excavations yielded only scattered remains in Layer VI. 
Strangely, surveys conducted with augers have not revealed evidence of a Middle or New 
Kingdom settlement, but only intensifying activities not earlier than the late second 
millennium BC. 

From the Late period, excavations have yielded a domestic area and buildings with 
walls of considerable size, 2m or greater in thickness, thought to have been platforms. 
They date between the late eighth and the first half of the sixth centuries BC. Overlying 
evidence of industrial activities, a pottery sequence in a nearby area indicates continuing 
occupation through the fifth and fourth centuries BC. 

The EES excavations in the 1960s unearthed two complexes with public baths to the 
north and south of the temple area and nearby industrial areas. On the so-called Kom ed- 
Dahab, a building was unearthed which contained a Ptolemaic occupation sequence, but 
which may have been built in the Late period. Surface potsherds indicate extensive 
occupation at Buto in Graeco-Roman times, but these are much reduced in area by the 
fourth century AD, with occupation probably ceasing by the sixth century. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 212 


The temple precinct has a mudbrick enclosure 


Figure 20 Remains of an Early 
Dynasty mudbrick building in Layer V 
at Buto (Tell el-Fara'in) 

wall, circa 300><200m in area, with walls 17-25m in width still standing more than 10m 
high. It is thought to have been built during the Late period. The main entrance is on the 
west, with an approach between the two settlement mounds, but there is also a smaller 
entrance on the east. Structures inside the temple enclosure include a double staircase 
leading to two wells, which might have served as a nilometer, most likely built in 
Ptolemaic times with older material. There is also a stone pavement and some of the 
lowest parts of an inner enclosure wall of stone probably belonged to a temple built 
during the 26th Dynasty. From an earlier (Ramesside?) and larger temple with a 
columned hall are traces of a mudbrick platform. These structures, however, cover only 
the western part of the enclosure; the eastern, rear part of the temple is still unexplored. 

Mentioned for the last time in the "Satrap stela," dating to the beginning of the 
Ptolemaic period, the temple must have gone out of use and was dismantled in early 
Roman times, as indicated by archaeological evidence. Work in the temple area, 
however, has not yet established a clear stratigraphy. Scattered stone artifacts (mostly not 
in situ) include a stela of Tuthmose III, several large statues of Ramesses II (mainly with 
deities, including a lion-headed Uto), a black granite head of a lion goddess (most likely 
Ramesside), some stone blocks from Ramesses II and kings of the 26th Dynasty, a stela 
of a king from the Third Intermediate Period, a statue of King Nepherites of the 29th 
Dynasty, statues of a hawk and two small sphinxes (one with the name of King Hakor of 
the 29th Dynasty), and a statue of a priest of Uto of the Late period. 

Entries A-Z 213 


A cemetery, which has been tentatively dated from the late first millennium BC to the 
late Roman period, covers a considerable area in the western part of the northern 
settlement mound. It was partly excavated by Egyptian archaeologists. 

Regional investigations 

Remains of a marshy area, dated to the fifth and fourth millennia BC, were located only a 
few kilometers north of the site. About 4km southwest of Buto at least one more 
settlement of the Buto-Ma'adi culture was detected by augering. It is not located on a 
sub-surface mound of sand, contradicting the opinion of S. Passarge and K.W.Butzer that 
prehistoric Delta settlements could only have been established on sand islands or "turtle 

See also 

Fayum, Neolithic and Predynastic sites; Hierakonpolis; Ma'adi and the Wadi Digla; 
Merimde Beni-salame; Neolithic and Predynastic stone tools; pottery, prehistoric; 
Predynastic period, overview 

Further reading 

Charlesworth, D. 1970. The Tell el-Fara'in excavation, 1969. JEA 56:19-28. 

Seton-Williams, M.V. 1969. The Tell el-Fara'in Expedition, 1968. JEA 55:5-22. 

Way, T.von der. 1992. Excavation at Tell el-Fara'in/Buto in 1987-1989. In The Nile Delta in 

Transition: 4th to 3rd millennium B.C., E.C.M. van den Brink, ed., 1-10. Jerusalem. 

. 1993. Untersuchungen zur Spatvor- und Friihgeschichte Unterdgyptens. Heidelberg. 

. 1997. Tell el-Fara'in-Buto I (AVDAIK 83). Mainz. 

Wunderlich, J., and W.Andres. 1991. Late Pleistocene and Holocene evolution of the western Nile 

Delta and implications for its future development. In Von der Nordsee bis zum Indischen Ozean, 

H.Briickner and U. Radtke, eds, 105-20. Stuttgart. 


Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 214 

C-Group culture 

Archaeological evidence of the C-Group culture, a people of uncertain origin who 
inhabited Lower Nubia from circa 2200 BC to circa 1500 BC, was initially encountered 
south of Aswan in 1907. Archaeologists have established that the C-Group occupation 
began around the time of the 6th Dynasty (in Egypt) and continued up to the 18th 
Dynasty. The five periods of C-Group development (Stages la, lb, Ha, lib and III), based 
on changing grave construction as well as on pottery types, constitute the Middle Nubian 
phase of Lower Nubian history. At various intervals during this time span, Lower Nubia 
was also occupied by other groups, including the Kerma and Pan-grave peoples. 

Dozens of C-Group cemeteries and a few settlements have been located along both 
banks of the Nile from Shellal to Saras, near Semna in Lower Nubia. These sites are in a 
region where fertile land was scarce. Where it existed, the floodplain was narrow and 
settlement location tended to correspond to the available tracts of arable land. The rarity 
of C-Group settlements has been attributed to the small size of their scattered villages and 
the concealment of ancient villages under modern ones. 

Uncertainty about the nature of C-Group subsistence has resulted because excavated 
food remains are lacking. Nevertheless, it is usually assumed that C-Group communities, 
like earlier Lower Nubian Neolithic populations, practiced a form of agriculture that was 
totally dependent on the annual flooding. Barley, wheat and various legumes may have 
been cultivated, whereas wild dates and other fruits were collected. Settlement 
excavations suggest that by the time of the First Intermediate Period, C-Group 
populations were probably semi-sedentary agriculturalists who were engaged in hunting 
and fishing, and whose domestic animals included cattle and goats. The claim that C- 
Group peoples were pastoralists has been challenged by archaeologists who insist that it 
would have been impossible to graze large herds of cattle in Lower Nubia because of the 
poor environment. Faunal remains from an early occupation site at Seyala were 
dominated by the bones of sheep. 

Entries A-Z 215 

In the earliest cemeteries, contracted bodies were placed in graves marked by small, 
well-built, stone circles filled with gravel. Pottery, including locally produced black- 
incised bowls containing offerings, was placed against the east wall of the tumulus. In 
addition to Egyptian storage jars, which indicate that foodstuffs were probably being 
imported from Egypt, copper mirrors, seal amulets, and scarabs have also been recovered 
from early (la) cemeteries. Most archaeologists have assumed that these foreign goods 
were obtained through trade. According to Old Kingdom texts, however, Egyptian goods 
were presented to C-Group leaders as gifts. Other possible sources of foreign craft goods 
may have been tolls levied against the transport of Egyptian trade goods through Lower 
Nubian territories and payment earned by Lower Nubian mercenaries, especially during 
the First Intermediate Period. Still, the true extent of Egyptian involvement with the lands 
south of Aswan at this time remains a matter of conjecture. 

The primary motive for the Middle Kingdom Egyptian incursion into Nubia was 
access to luxury materials from the south. During this period (Ha), many C-Group 
peoples lived near fortresses built by the Egyptians at Kuban, Aniba and elsewhere. In C- 
Group settlements, two varieties of circular, or almost square, semi-subterranean houses 
were constructed. One type consisted of many rooms, including granaries; the other was 
simply one large room. Houses were not located close together or arranged in a formal 
plan, and none appeared to be substantially more elaborate than the others. C-Group 
villages of Stage Ha were small, and the evidence suggests that both types of houses were 
inhabited by extended families. Although there may have been differences in status 
between members of some communities, there were not marked economic differences. 

The stone circles that surrounded Middle Kingdom C-Group graves tended to be 
larger and not as well built as those of Stage la. Offerings contained in pottery bowls 
were deposited against the north wall of the tumulus. Apart from the water jars and 
occasional metal objects that were placed in the burial pit along with the contracted 
bodies, very few Egyptian artifacts have been recovered from these graves. Exchange 
with Egyptians is assumed to have been minimal. Like the settlement evidence, Stage Ha 
burials indicate no differences in wealth between cemeteries or individual burials. 

By about 1800 BC, crowded, fortified villages (C-Group lib) appeared at several 
locations, including Wadi es-Sebua and Amada. Three kinds of graves are known from 
this period, including a new, large, high-status type. Mudbrick offering chapels were built 
against the east wall of some of the largest tumuli, and grave pits varied in both size and 
construction. Those that contained extended bodies and had barrel vaults of mudbrick, 
stone slabs or wood may have been the burials of rulers. Like Stage Ha burials, those of 
Stage lib sometimes contained black-incised or red-incised handmade bowls, as well as 
pitchers of chaff-tempered ware on which figures or geometrical designs were incised. 
Imported, or at least Egyptian- style, pottery increased throughout the period until it 
became the dominant type used in the latest C-Group (III) burials. 

The final C-Group occupation of Nubia was probably contemporary with an Egyptian 
expansion south as far as the Fourth Cataract in the early New Kingdom. Some C-Group 
(III) graves, in which the burial pits were protected by loosely placed, standing slabs of 
stone, appear to be those of Pan-grave peoples, whose earliest remains in Lower Nubia 
are seemingly contemporary with later C-Group (lib) remains. The subsequent apparent 
"Egyptianization" of both the C-Group and Pan-grave elements in the population was 
followed by the disappearance of all traces of Lower Nubians by the end of the New 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 216 

Kingdom. The meaning of this disappearance of (Middle) Nubian culture remains 
unresolved. Like other questions concerning the C-Group, attempts to explain its 
significance will require further study of the excavated evidence from burials and 

See also 

Nubian forts; Pan-grave culture 

Further reading 

Adams, W. Y. 1984. Nubia: Corridor to Africa. London. 

Bietak, M. 1968. Studien zur Chronologie der nubischen C-Gruppe. DOAW 57. Vienna. 

Trigger, B.G. 1976. Nubia Under the Pharaohs. Boulder, CO. 



Greater Canaan stretched from south of Gaza to as far north as Ugarit (an important port 
and commercial city in the eastern Mediterranean). Canaanites were the peoples who 
lived in this region during the Bronze Age (third and second millennia BC). Because of 
Canaan's geographical position, Canaanites had much contact with Egyptians, and there 
is both archaeological and textual evidence of this. 

The name "Canaanites" first appears in a cuneiform text written in Akkadian from the 
archives excavated at the site of Mari (in Syria) dating to the nineteenth-eighteenth 
centuries BC. In Egyptian texts, the term for Canaanites is encountered for the first time 
in the 18th Dynasty in the Karnak and Memphis annals of Amenhotep II. The name 
"Canaan" appears frequently in the Amarna Letters, as well as in texts in Ugaritic. 
Because of the Hurrian element in the population of Canaan, the common name used by 
Egyptians in the New Kingdom was fl^ rL L'(Khuru), which replaced earlier names (fwAji 
or Djahy, and RflWor Retjenu). The name Kn c n in Egyptian texts might sometimes refer 
to Gaza, the capital of the Egyptian province in Canaan in the New Kingdom. 

Early Dynastic period 

Canaanite relations with Egypt go back to the Predynastic period, corresponding roughly 
to the Palestinian Chalcolithic period (fourth millennium BC). However, with the 
unification of Egypt clear evidence for these relations emerges from prehistory. Evidence 

Entries A-Z 217 

for military activities in Canaan by Egyptian kings of the Early Dynastic period is also 
found in the annals of the Palermo Stone, and in other early inscriptions. 

Egyptian economic activity in Canaan in the Early Dynastic period is attested by 
stamped clay sealings and bullae found in southern Israel. A serekh (royal name) of King 
yor-atia(ist Dynasty) was excavated at an Egyptian commercial station at 'En-Besor in 
the western Negev. This was the northernmost station on the road from Egypt to Canaan 
along the coast of northern Sinai. Egyptian kings and high officials of the 1st Dynasty 
imported decorated jars from Canaan that may have contained scented oils. This trade 
began in the Predynastic period. 

Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period 

With the emergence of the Old Kingdom there is much evidence for Egyptian-Canaanite 
relations, from Egyptian texts as well as from Egyptian artifacts found in Palestine and 
the Lebanon. Egypt was, and is, very poor in high quality woods for construction, 
shipbuilding, furniture and other craft goods. However, in the forests of Lebanon a 
variety of coniferous trees grew which yielded high quality timber. The annals of Old 
Kingdom kings and other documents record ships, palace doors and flag-masts made 
from ash and a wood known in texts as meru, which are Lebanese woods. Cedar, juniper, 
fir and cypress from the Lebanon were used in Egyptian coffins, Khufu's solar bark at 
Giza, and beams in some pyramids. 

The need for wood brought Egypt into close contact with Byblos, a seaport on the 
Lebanese coast. Beginning in the Early Dynastic period, Egyptian artifacts, such as a 
fragment from a vessel bearing the name of King Khasekhemwy (2nd Dynasty), are 
known from Byblos. An inscription on a broken alabaster bowl found at Byblos, dating to 
the 2nd or 3rd Dynasty, mentions "the scribe of the royal tree-fellers." Old Kingdom 
artifacts, such as statues, statuettes and inscribed vessels, have also been found at Byblos. 
Some of them bear the names of kings of the 4th, 5th and 6th Dynasties. Evidence is also 
found at Abusir in the reliefs of Sahure's pyramid complex, which depict Syrian bears, 
Canaanite jars, a captive Canaanite and a ship with Canaanite men, women and children 
on its deck. 

With the collapse of the Old Kingdom, Egyptian artifacts almost disappear from 
Canaan: evidence for the cessation of regular trade. The Admonitions of Ipuwer, el text 
that describes conditions during the First Intermediate Period, laments the cessation of 
trade with Byblos and the infiltration of "archers" (i.e. Asiatics) into Egypt. Possibly 
some Canaanites came into the eastern Delta at this time when there were no forces to 
stop them. 

Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period 

New attitudes toward Asiatics are seen in the Middle Kingdom. The Prophecy ofNeferty 
describes the policy of Amenemtiatj (12th Dynasty), who fortified the border between 
Egypt and the Sinai by building the "Wall of the Ruler" to repel the Asiatics (the Sinaitic 
tribes and Canaanites). The Tale of Sinuhe describes an Egyptian fugitive and courtier of 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 218 

Senusret I who settled in the land of Qedem, perhaps in the hinterland of Lebanon. A 
ruler of Retjenu, the Egyptian name for part of Syria, welcomed Sinuhe and wanted to 
benefit from his knowledge of Egyptian. 

The most important documents testifying to Egyptian interests in Canaan are the 
Execration Texts, which date to the 12th Dynasty. These texts are found in two groups: 
on bowls from the reign of Amenemhat II or Senusret III now in Berlin, and on figurines 
which date to the first half of the eighteenth century BC, now mostly in Brussels. Both 
groups of texts enumerate Egypt's potential enemies, in Egypt, Asia and Nubia. The 
Brussels figurines have much more detailed information than the Berlin bowls, listing 
more toponyms (both towns and regions) and their rulers, and names of tribes. 

A tomb painting at Beni Hasan in Middle Egypt describes a caravan from the land of 
Shut (in trans-Jordan?). The caravan consists of whole families with their donkeys laden 
with merchandise. 

Many Egyptian artifacts, scarabs and seals of Middle Kingdom date have been found 
at various sites in greater Canaan, including four stelae of a nomarch (governor) of the 
Hare nome in Middle Egypt from Megiddo. Canaanite exports to Egypt, especially olive 
oil and wine, can be interpreted as taxes or as commerce. There is evidence for cattle 
from Retjenu in Egypt, and many Canaanite vessels have been found in Egypt, such as 
the so-called Tell el-Yahudiya Ware. 

Along the eastern Mediterranean coast, strong Egyptian connections with Ugarit are 
demonstrated by the Egyptian artifacts found there. These include a statue of a daughter 
of Amenemhat II, who was the half-sister and wife of Senusret II, and two stone sphinxes 
of Amenemhat III. High officials at Byblos were given honorary titles written in 

Although almost all relations between Egypt and Canaan ceased during the First 
Intermediate Period, this was not the case in the Second Intermediate Period. Hyksos 
rulers established themselves as kings who ruled in northern Egypt and at least in 
southern Canaan (15th-16th Dynasties). They took Egyptian royal titles and accession 
names, but some of their scarabs have typical Canaanite names. 

Excavations at Tell ed-Dab'a, the site of the Hyksos capital and stronghold of Avaris 
in the eastern Delta, have revealed architecture and pottery which are typical of the MB II 
culture in Canaan. Hyksos burial customs are unique, especially the burial of equids. The 
most common evidence for this period are the many scarabs unearthed at sites in Egypt 
and Israel. 

New Kingdom 

The New Kingdom began with the annihilation of the Hyksos in northern Egypt, and 
continued military activities destroyed Hyksos strongholds in Canaan. Egypt's army 
pushed northward and built an empire and Egyptian garrisons were stationed at key 
points, with Egyptian administrators and couriers traveling throughout the empire. Egypt 
was exposed to Canaanite culture, religion and language, and Canaanite words and 
phrases were used by knowledgeable Egyptians. Canaanites went to Egypt as couriers or 
merchants. Others were brought there as enslaved prisoners of war. 

Entries A-Z 219 

With the arrival of Tuthmose III in Canaan in his first regnal year, Egyptian-Canaanite 
relations intensified. He established a policy of taking members of Canaan's ruling class 
as hostages to Egypt, where they were educated with Egyptians. Such Egyptianized 
Canaanites were enlisted in the Egyptian administration. 

Canaanite commodities flowed into Egypt, as taxes imposed on the rulers of Canaanite 
city-states or as merchandise. These commodities included foodstuffs, raw materials, 
artifacts and slaves, both male and female. A Canaanite merchant's ship anchored in the 
Memphis harbor is depicted in the tomb of Ken-Amen at Thebes (from the reign of 
Amenhotep III). 

Egyptian presence in Canaan is attested by many small artifacts, such as scarabs and 
vessels. Monuments were also erected in Canaan by Egyptian monarchs and 
administrators. For example, a fragment of a stela of Tuthmose III, or Amenhotep II, 
mentioning a defeat of the army of the kingdom of Mitanni (in northern Syria), was found 
at Tell Kinroth overlooking the Sea of Galilee. 

During the 19th Dynasty the Egyptian capital was moved to the northeast Delta in 
order to govern the empire in Asia more effectively. With the transfer of the capital to Pi- 
Ramesses, Canaanites and Egyptians were brought into closer contact, and Canaanites 
migrated to the Delta. Ships of Canaanite merchants sailed up the Nile to the harbor at 
Memphis, where there was a temple for their god Ba'al (Papyrus Sallier V). Canaanite 
deities, such as Ba'al, Resheph, Horon, Qudshu, 'Anat and Astarte, became familiar in 
Egypt and were worshipped there. Canaanite as well as other Semitic words infiltrated 
the Egyptian language. Most of these loan words are technical terms which came to 
Egypt with new technologies and materials. 

Egyptianization of Canaanites from Gaza, the seat of the Egyptian administration of 
Canaan, is disclosed through the Egyptian names of some Gaza couriers whose fathers' 
names are still Canaanite (in Papyrus Anastasi III). However, only a very limited segment 
of the society had any contact with Egyptians there. Egyptian military activity in Canaan 
during the 19th Dynasty is attested not only in inscriptions in Egypt, but also in Egyptian 
monuments in Canaan. Stelae of Seti I, Ramesses II and Merenptah have all been found 

In the early 20th Dynasty, an important event in the reign of Ramesses III was the 
invasion of the "Sea Peoples." Among the migrating peoples were those who were later 
known as the Philistines. Ramesses III defeated the invaders' fleet in the Nile estuaries, 
and their army was defeated somewhere along the Canaanite coast. The Philistines, 
however, settled in what became known as Philistia, stretching from the north bank of the 
Yarkon River (Tel Aviv) to the fringes of the Sinai coast. A related group, the Tjeker (or 
Tjekel), settled at the port city of Dor, at the foot of Mt Carmel. 

Egyptian artifacts dating to the 20th Dynasty are found throughout Canaan, including 
ones inscribed with the names of Ramesses III and Ramesses IV. The decline of Egyptian 
prestige in the Levant at this time, however, is best described by the text of the Egyptian 
official Wenamen, who was unsuccessfully sent to Byblos to acquire wood for Amen's 
sacred bark during the reign of Ramesses XI, at the end of the 20th Dynasty. Instead, 
Wenamen was humiliated by rulers who were no longer threatened by Egyptian power in 
southwest Asia. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 220 

See also 

Beni Hasan; Hyksos; Israelites; Levantine peoples (Iron Age); Medinet Habu; Sea 
Peoples; Tell ed-Dab'a, Second Intermediate Period; Tell el-Maskhuta; Tell el-Yahudiya 

Further reading 

Ben-Tor, A. 1982. The relations between Egypt and the land of Canaan during the third millennium 

B.C. Journal of Jewish Studies 23: 3-18. 
Helck, W. 1971. Die Beziehungen Agyptens zu Vorderasien im 3. und 2. Jahrtausend v. Chr. 

Hoch, J.E. 1994. Semitic Words in Egyptian Texts of the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate 

Period. Princeton, NJ. 
Redford, D.B. 1992. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. Princeton, NJ. 
Stadelmann, R. 1967. Syrisch-Paldstinensische Gottheiten in Agypten. Leiden. 
Wright, M. 1988. Contacts between Egypt and Syro-Palestine during the Old Kingdom. Biblical 

Archaeologist 51:143-61. 


Carnarvon, George Edward Stanhope 
Molyneux Herbert, Earl of 

George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, fifth Earl of Carnarvon, was born in 1866 
and succeeded to the earldom in 1890. He was an early automobile enthusiast, and was 
badly injured in a crash in Germany in 1901. His convalescence was long, and in 1903 he 
first visited Egypt, a favorite destination for invalids. There he was bitten by the bug of 
Egyptology and, with his large private means and sociopolitical connections, was able to 
obtain a permit to excavate at western Thebes. His first excavation season revealed little 
more than a mummified cat, but the next year he found the tomb of Tetiky (TT 15) and a 
tomb (Carter's no. 9) containing a tablet bearing a copy of Kamose's account of the war 
against the Hyksos. 

Needing expert help, in 1908 he obtained the services of Howard Carter, who was to 
work for him for the rest of the Earl's life. Together they made a number of significant 
discoveries, culminating in the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922. 
Carnarvon was also a major collector of Egyptian antiquities, deriving both from his own 
excavations and the market. Apart from a few which remain at Highclere, the family seat 
in Berkshire, England, the bulk of his artifacts now reside in the Metropolitan Museum of 
Art, New York. 

The Earl died in 1923 as a result of complications stemming from a mosquito bite in 
the Valley of the Kings: the lesion was nicked while shaving, became infected and led to 
blood poisoning. His demise was attributed by the popular press to "Tutankhamen's 
Curse," a non-existent incantation probably invented by Arthur Weigall, a former 

Entries A-Z 221 

Egyptologist who was covering the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamen for a London 

See also 

Carter, Howard; Thebes, Valley of the Kings; Tutankhamen, tomb of 

Further reading 

Carter, H., and A.C.Mace. 1923. The Tomb of Tut-ankh-Amen I. London. 
James, T.G.H. 1992. Howard Carter: the Path to Tutankhamun. London. 
Reeves, N., and J.H.Taylor. 1992. Howard Carter before Tutankhamun. London. 


Carter, Howard 

Howard Carter was born in 1874 into an artistic family. His first Egyptological 
employment was at the age of seventeen, when he inked in tracings made at Beni Hasan 
by Percy Newberry; shortly afterwards he was taken out to that site as an artist. He 
subsequently became the principal copyist in the 1893-9 campaign to record the temple 
of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri. His drawings of these reliefs are some of the best 
of their kind. 

In 1899, he was appointed Antiquities Service Inspector General for Upper Egypt, and 
spent the next four years excavating and restoring the monuments in his care, in 
particular those of Thebes. During that period he found the cenotaph of Nebhepetre 
Mentuhotep II and the sepulchers of Hatshepsut, Tuthmose II and Tuthmose IV. He also 
cleared a number of tombs of debris, in particular that of Merenptah. 

In 1904 he was moved to Lower Egypt, but resigned as a result of difficulties 
following a fracas with French tourists at Saqqara in 1905. He spent the following 
months as a freelance painter and dealer in antiquities, the latter helped by his excellent 
eye, and a good relationship with the common Egyptian: unlike many of his fellow 
Europeans, he felt that his home was in Egypt. In 1908 he was engaged by Lord 
Carnarvon to direct the excavations that the latter had begun the previous year in western 

This work revealed an extensive early 18th Dynasty tomb (Carter's no. 37) and the 
valley building of Hatshepsut's temple complex, along with many other significant finds. 
After spending 1912-13 carrying out largely abortive work at Sakha (ancient Xo'is) and 
Balamun in the Delta, Carter returned to Thebes. In 1914, he discovered an early 18th 
Dynasty royal tomb that was probably the resting place of Ahmose-Nefertiry, wife of 
Ahmose I, and in 1915, Carnarvon, having obtained the concession for the Valley of the 
Kings, cleared parts of the tomb of Amenhotep III. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 222 

Carter spent the years of the First World War in Egypt. In 1916 he found the tomb 
intended for Hatshepsut as regent, hidden in a remote southern wadi, and then in 1917 he 
started proper excavations in the Valley of the Kings. For the next five years, careful 
investigations were made in the various parts of the valley that Carter felt might conceal 
tombs. Apart from material related to the burial of Merenptah (19th Dynasty), and 
various small finds such as ostraca, shawabtis and other broken items, little was found. 
With his patron becoming disheartened at the lack of major discoveries, the 1922 season 
threatened to be the last. 

Soon after its beginning, in November 1922, the tomb of Tutankhamen was revealed, 
leading to ten years of clearance, recording and restoration work, frequently hindered by 
the abrasive relationship between Carter and the Egyptian Antiquities Service, and also 
by the death of Carnarvon in 1923. Although a popular account of the excavation was 
published rapidly, Carter was never able to start proper work on the final publication, and 
died from Hodgkin's disease in 1939. 

See also 

Beni Hasan; Carnarvon, George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, Earl of; Deir el- 
Bahri, Hatshepsut temple; Deir el-Bahri, Mentuhotep II complex; shawabtis, servant 
figures and models; Thebes, Valley of the Kings 

Further reading 

James, T.G.H. 1992. Howard Carter: The Path to Tutankhamun. London. 
Reeves, N., and J.H.Taylor. 1992. Howard Carter before Tutankhamun. London. 


Caton Thompson, Gertrude 

Gertrude Caton Thompson (1888-1985) was an English prehistorian who conducted 
pioneering excavations in Egypt, Africa and Arabia between the two world wars. She was 
the first archaeologist working in Egypt to appreciate the importance of prehistoric 
settlement sites, in contrast to the cemeteries so enthusiastically excavated by her 
contemporaries, and in 1924 began the first stratigraphically controlled excavation of a 
Predynastic village site. This was North Spur Hemamieh in the el-Badari district, which 
remains unique for its clear Badarian-Nagada I — II sequence. She also recognized the 
value of geological data in archaeology. Thus, starting with her next project in the Fayum 
region, she began working with the geologist Elinor Gardner. Their Fayum investigations 
led to the discovery of two Neolithic cultures: the Fayum A and B. Although, Caton 
Thompson thought the Fayum B was a degenerate culture that came after the Fayum A, 

Entries A-Z 223 

more recent work has shown that it represents an Epi-paleolithic tradition preceding the 
Fayum A Neolithic. 

After spending much of 1929 excavating among the famous ruins of Zimbabwe in 
southern Africa, Caton Thompson returned to Egypt to explore the prehistory of Kharga 
Oasis, where she located and excavated sites ranging from Lower Paleolithic to Neolithic 
in date. 

For her final field project in 1937-8, she went to the Hadhramaut in southern Arabia, 
where she conducted the first systematic excavations ever to be undertaken in the region, 
uncovering the Moon temple, and shrines and tombs of Hureidha of the fifth-fourth 
centuries BC. Though this marked the end of her field investigations, Caton Thompson's 
career in archaeology continued with writing, giving lectures and attending conferences. 
She was very much involved in founding the British Institute of History and Archaeology 
in East Africa. 

See also 

el-Badari district Predynastic sites; Epi-paleolithic cultures, overview; Fayum, Neolithic 
and Predynastic sites; Kharga Oasis, prehistoric sites; Neolithic cultures, overview; 
Paleolithic cultures, overview; Predynastic period, overview 

Further reading 

Caton Thompson, G. 1983. Mixed Memoirs. Gateshead. 


Champollion, Jean-Francois 

The decipherer of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832) 
was probably one of the most brilliant scholars of all time. A child prodigy, Champollion 
was educated at Figeac, his birthplace in southeast France, and later at nearby Grenoble. 
While still a child, he learned about the Rosetta Stone from a meeting with the great 
mathematician Jean-Joseph Fourier, who had been a member of the Napoleonic 
expedition which discovered it; the young boy, who was a genius at languages, vowed to 
decipher it. To this end he had, by his mid-teens, studied Greek, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, 
Syriac, Sanskrit and Coptic. 

By age eighteen, Champollion had published the geographical section of a projected 
encyclopedic book, Egypt under the Pharaohs, and compiled a Coptic dictionary. For this 
he was made a faculty member at Grenoble's local college. Champollion's interests, 
however, were wide and included politics. His democratic and anti-clerical views resulted 
in his being banished from Grenoble, and he eventually sought refuge with his elder 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 224 

brother in Paris. From 1807-9 he attended the College de France and continued to work 
on his goal. He recognized the shorthand nature of the demotic writing on the Rosetta 
Stone, and equated some demotic signs with Coptic. Because of the shortness of the 
hieroglyphic section of the Rosetta Stone and because of the late date of the text, scholars 
could not be sure that the equivalences they were able to make between the Greek signs 
and the seemingly alphabetic hieroglyphs, such as in the royal names, were not a late, 
Greek-influenced phenomenon. (This was later explained by Champollion in his famous 
letter of 1822, Lettre a M.Dacier relative a V alphabet des hieroglyphes phonetiques.) 
More texts from earlier periods were clearly needed for study. 

Fortunately, Champollion received copies of a much earlier inscription of Ramesses II 
from Abu Simbel, which assured him that the alphabetic characteristics went back to 
pharaonic times. Thus able to proceed, he soon presented his detailed monograph (Precis 
du systeme hieroglyphique). Two trips to Italy to study and purchase Egyptian collections 
were followed by his appointment as conservator at the Louvre. In 1828 Champollion and 
his student Niccolo Rosellini journeyed throughout Egypt to gather more antiquities and 
copies of inscriptions. Not long after his return, Champollion received the first Chair of 
Egyptology at the College de France. Unfortunately, his career and life were cut short at 
age forty-two by a stroke. 

His devoted brother succeeded in the post-humous publication of his Egyptian 
grammar in 1836, and also labored to bring out the accompanying dictionary. Because 
these publications appeared so long after his initial achievement, and because 
Champollion had spent so much time collecting primary source material, his rivals and 
detractors prevailed until in 1837 the distinguished German professor Richard Lepsius 
agreed in print with his philological arguments. Then Champollion was finally given the 
credit he deserved for correctly deciphering the ancient Egyptian language. 

See also 

Egyptian (language), decipherment of; Egyptian language and writing; Lepsius, Carl 
Richard; Napoleon Bonaparte and the Napoleonic expedition; Rosetta Stone; textual 
sources, Late period 

Further reading 

Dawson, W.R., and E.P.Uphill. 1995. Who Was Who in Egyptology, 3rd edn, M.L.Bierbrier. 

Griffith, F.L. 1923. The decipherment of the hieroglyphs. JEA 37:38-46. 


Entries A-Z 225 


While the wheel was known in Egypt prior to the New Kingdom, the chariot does not 
make its appearance in Egyptian records until the beginning of the 18th Dynasty. 
Wheeled vehicles are first attested in Mesopotamia as early as the end of the fourth 
millennium BC at Uruk. More widely known there in the succeeding millennium and a 
half, it has long been assumed that the horse and chariot were subsequently introduced to 
Anatolia, Syria and Palestine prior to their arrival in Egypt with the Hyksos. In fact, as 
early as Flinders Petrie at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was suggested that the 
Hyksos were able to so easily overwhelm Egypt because they possessed the chariot and 
composite bow, which the Egyptians did not have. This understanding, although 
frequently noted in the secondary literature, does not have strong archaeological support. 

After three decades of excavations at Tell ed-Dab'a, almost certainly the Hyksos 
capital of Avaris, no traces of chariots have been found; only some horse teeth from the 
late Hyksos period (17th Dynasty) have been discovered. From the beginning of the wars 
of liberation against the Hyksos comes the stela of King Kamose of Thebes in which the 
monarch brags that he will take away the ti nt fr">'of the Hyksos monarch. While this 
expression has been translated as "chariotry," the hieroglyphic determinative for chariot 
is not written. As Alan Schulman has shown, the context of Kamose 's boast does not 
support this interpretation. Consequently, the first certain reference to a chariot in 
Egyptian literature is found in the tomb biography of Ahmose Si Abena, a naval officer 
from El-kab, who mentions following on foot the chariot of King Ahmose in his 
campaign against Avaris. Thanks to an important discovery of painted fragments from a 
funerary structure of King Ahmose at Abydos by Stephen Harvey in the early 1990s, 
evidence now exists showing horses and a fallen warrior in Asiatic attire. These 
fragments apparently depict the war of liberation against the Hyksos by Ahmose and 
indicate that chariotry was involved in a military setting. From the early 18th through the 
20th Dynasties, chariots are regularly depicted in Egyptian tombs, temples and even on 

The earliest occurring and most common word for chariot is wrr(y)t, which is found in 
the Ahmose text mentioned above from the outset of the 18th Dynasty, and throughout 
the New Kingdom. Unlike the word for horse, ssm(t), whose etymology is Semitic (sus 
(Hebrew) or sisu (Akkadian)), wrr(y)t does not derive from a Semitic root. However, by 
the middle of the 18th Dynasty, the common Semitic term for chariot, mrkbt, is found in 
Egyptian texts, but it never supersedes wrr(y)t. The term 9**7, meaning "chariotry" as a 
distinct military unit, does not occur until the time of Amenhotep III. Prior to this time, 
*""J'applied to a yoke or span of draught animals, oxen or horses, and hence "chariot." 

First and foremost, the chariot is a vehicle for more speedily delivering the rider to a 
desired location. Since chariots (and horses) were costly, their use was limited to royalty, 
aristocracy and the military elite. As a means of transportation, the chariot enjoyed 
limited use in Egypt since boating on the Nile was the primary means of long-distance 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 226 

transportation north and south. The Egyptian chariot was light enough that even a single 
man could carry one, and they could be placed on boats for transport. 

The chariot was closely linked with the military, although Schulman has argued it had 
less strategic value than is commonly thought. Essentially, a chariot provides a moving 
platform from which an archer could shoot at the enemy. The term for "chariot warrior" 
was snny and the charioteer was ^i w . The Egyptian chariot is invariably portrayed as a 
military vehicle, always equipped with a bow case (even during the Amarna period). In 
the 19th and 20th Dynasties, a case for holding javelins is secured to the body of the 
chariot. The tombs of Amenmose and Kenamen in the Theban necropolis display all the 
equipment a charioteer would use; these include the bow, quiver, sword, whip and 

Hunting was a favorite sport of Egyptian royalty and nobility; both are represented 
pursuing desert game while riding in their chariots. The horses are shown in the same 
rearing stance that is found in military scenes where the king attacks his enemies. The 
kings of the 18th Dynasty, especially Amenhotep II (Sphinx Stela) and Amenhotep III 
(Hunt Scarab) were especially proud of their hunting accomplishments. The sportsman 
motif, where the king is shown hunting on a chariot, is popular throughout the New 
Kingdom. It occurs on artifacts from the tomb of Tutankhamen. It also appears in the 
19th Dynasty and is last seen in the reliefs of Ramesses III at his funerary temple of 
Medinet Habu. 

Chariot processional scenes were popular from the latter half of the 18th Dynasty 
onward. The triumphant pharaoh is sometimes depicted alone returning from the 
battlefield. The displaying of prisoners of war is also common throughout the New 
Kingdom. In other cases, the king's entourage is portrayed, including members of the 
royal family and ranking officials. Unique to the Amarna scenes is the queen riding her 
chariot after the king or actually accompanying Akhenaten in his chariot, sometimes with 
princesses as well. The Amarna processional scenes show the royal party going to or 
returning from cultic observances in a temple. 

The chariot can be divided into three parts: (1) the body, (2) the yoke, saddles and 
harness, and (3) the bridle. Information about these components can be gleaned from the 
numerous painted scenes and reliefs. In addition, a number of chariots have actually 
survived, including six from the tomb of Tutankhamen, a body that belonged to 
Tuthmose IV and the chariot of Yuya, all of which are on display in the Cairo Museum, 
as well as one in the Museum in Florence, Italy. From the 18th Dynasty a number of 
tombs (for example, Puyemre, Menkheperresenb and Hepu) contain workshop scenes 
showing artisans making chariots. They are shown preparing, shaping and carving wood, 
as well as tanning and cutting leather. 

Wood and leather are the primary materials for constructing chariots; only a minimal 
amount of metal was used. Analysis of a chariot in the Florence museum shows that the 
body, yoke, wheel hub and saddle yokes were made of elm which most likely came from 
the Lebanon-Syria area. Birch was the wood found in the axle, wheel and floor. The pole 
was made of willow, while the wheel spokes were of plum. None of these trees is 
indigenous to Egypt. The closest source of birch is eastern Anatolia. Consequently, a 
complex international trade system was required to supply the various types of wood for 
making chariots in Egypt. Local leather was used for the bridle and harness. The floor of 
the chariot was made of rawhide thongs that were secured on a frame, arranged like the 

Entries A-Z 227 

strings on a tennis racket. Thus the floor could adequately sustain the weight of the 
occupants while being extremely light. Leather straps were also wrapped around the 
wheel to help hold it together. 

When chariots first appeared in the 18th Dynasty, they employed four spokes in the 
wheel. The transition to the six-spoked wheel, which became standard during the second 
half of the 18th Dynasty, was reached after brief experimentation with the eight-spoked 
wheel which is found during the reigns of Tuthmose III and Tuthmose IV. Except for a 
few anomalies, such as a chariot scene of Akhenaten where an eight-spoked wheel is 
found, the six-spoked wheel prevailed into the Third Intermediate Period. It has been 
suggested that the reason for the move from four to six spokes was because of the 
addition of the chariot warrior to the chariot during the time of Tuthmose III. A stronger 
wheel was necessary to support the added weight. 

The bodies of chariots, especially those of royalty, could be decorated with gold foil, 
making the vehicle splendid indeed. The chariot may not have originated in Egypt, but 
during the New Kingdom, Egypt mastered its use and construction. Consequently, even 
in later periods Egyptian chariots were in demand in the Levant. During the 21st Dynasty, 
King Solomon of Israel was a middleman in the trade of Egyptian chariots and horses to 
Syria and Anatolia (I Kings 10:28-9). 

See also 

army; Hyksos; Tell ed-Dab'a, Second Intermediate Period 

Further reading 

Harvey, S. 1994. Monuments of Ahmose at Abydos. Egyptian Archaeology 4:3-5. 
Hoffmeier, J.K. 1976. The evolving chariot wheel in the 18th Dynasty. JARCE 13:43-5. 
Littauer, M.A., and J.H.Crouwel. 1985. Chariots and Related Equipment from the Tomb of 

Tut'ankhamun (Tutankhamun tomb series 8). Oxford. 
Schulman, A.R. 1979. Chariots, chariotry and the Hyksos. JSSEA 10:105-53. 



The climate of Egypt is quite arid. Although there are cool spells during the winter 
months, temperatures normally are mild. During the summer half-year the heat is 
oppressive, with daily maxima in the southern part of the country reaching 42° to 50°C 
(108°-122°F), barely mitigated by the northerly breezes experienced in Cairo. 

The Mediterranean coastline receives the most rain, some 100-200mm (4-8 inches) 
on average, exclusively in mid-winter. Rainfall decreases rapidly inland, to 25mm (1 
inch) near Cairo, with most of the interior receiving only a few millimeters every 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 228 

generation or two. The aridity exceeds that of any part of the New World except for the 
desert of northern Chile. The Egyptian deserts, as a result, are largely lifeless and the few 
stream valleys remain totally inactive for centuries at a time. Although cool fronts blow 
in from the Mediterranean Sea several times each winter or spring, humidities are so low 
that they only raise dust. The Red Sea Hills, along the eastern spine of the country, differ 
because of their topographic relief (1000-1500m) and northeasterly winter winds that 
blow across the warm waters of the Red Sea. Fog or low clouds form over the higher 
mountains, especially in the far south-east, bringing moisture that supports more 
vegetation. Upper lows from the westerlies occasionally drift toward the Red Sea, setting 
off scattered but sometimes intense showers in the hill country. As a result, the valleys of 
the Red Sea Hills have well-defined courses that may actually flood for some distance 
every century or so. 

The available weather stations record practically no rain of tropical origin, even in 
Nubia. However, on very rare occasions, light summer showers may stray across the 
border from Sudan, bringing a few sprinkles. But in statistical terms, monsoon influences 
are limited to south of that border. It is uncertain whether the Gebel Uweinat and Gilf 
Kebir highlands in the southwest receive an occasional summer shower, or whether the 
rare rains received there come during the spring months, when low pressure cells 
embedded in the higher atmosphere cross the Sahara to produce March or April showers 
in northern Ethiopia. 

See also 

climatic history 

Further reading: 

Griffiths, J.F., and K.H.Soliman. 1970. The northern desert. In Climates of Africa, J.F. Griffiths, 
ed., 75-131. Amsterdam. 


climatic history 

During Pleistocene times (two million to 10,000 years ago), Egypt remained arid despite 
periodic amelioration of its perpetual drought. At times of glacial cooling in high 
latitudes, evaporation was lower in the subtropics, but rainfall was not demonstrably 
greater in the Saharan lowlands. For the period 25,000 to 10,000 years ago, the oases had 
a water supply as meager as they have today. To the west, only the towering Tibesti 
Mountains on the Chad-Libya border, with peaks rising above 3000m, show evidence of 
some spring activation. To the east, there were more frequent rains and sporadic stream 

Entries A-Z 229 

activity about 17,500 to 12,000 years ago; but an annual rainfall of 25-50mm in the Red 
Sea Hills would adequately explain the silty or sandy alluvial deposits in question. 

Evidence for late prehistoric climates in Egypt comes from (a) the desert margins of 
the Nile Valley and the Fayum Depression, and (b) widely scattered, shallow basins in 
the Western Desert that once harbored perennial or ephemeral bodies of water, on a scale 
similar to the surviving desert oases. 

Although common and well developed, wadi deposits in the Eastern Desert are 
difficult to date, except when interfingered with Nile flood silts. On the Kom Ombo Plain 
(Upper Egypt) and along the eastern margins of the valley in Nubia, one phase of wadi 
activation began before 11,000 BP (uncalibrated radiocarbon dates "before present") and 
terminated by 8,000 BP; snail proliferations and root impressions suggest more 
vegetation. The wadis were again active from before 6,000 to about 4,600 BP. Both 
episodes overlapped with times of higher Nile floods and accelerated siltation, but wadi 
beds were swept across the margins of the Nile alluvium when it was dry, and in turn 
were overlapped by fresh Nile mud while the wadis were inactive. In other words, 
sporadic wadi flooding came during the winter or spring months, when the Nile was low. 

Despite more frequent activation of the Eastern Desert wadis, the climate of the Red 
Sea hill country remained arid. More indicative of a modest qualitative change is a 
reddish paleosol that developed on the older of these wadi deposits during a millennium 
or more after 8,500 BP. This fossil soil led to oxidation, partial leaching of calcium 
carbonate, and clay mineral formation to a depth of 30-100cm that suggests more 
sustained moisture, some sort of plant cover, and less torrential rains that did not favor 

Other informative relationships have been identified from the Fayum Depression, 
which is connected to the Nile floodplain. During periods of higher Niles, this deep basin 
was filled by a lake. Two lacustrine episodes are identified from late prehistoric times, 
one dated about 8,900-7,100 BP, the other 6,500-5,500 BP. During the first lake phase, 
fine lakefloor and lakeshore sediments were deposited, interrupted by two episodes when 
waves undercut by encroaching drift sand at the shore; the absence of drift sand for much 
of the time suggests that dunes were mainly fixed by vegetation. The sediments of the 
second lake phase point to an even more stable desert surface, until about 4250 BC 
(calibrated) when the lake shore was again briefly invaded by tongues of drift sands that 
prograded into the lake, where they were reworked by wave action into massive, so- 
called deltaic beds. Subsequently the lake retreated to an intermediate level, while a 
modest organic soil formed. Stream activity then cut channels into the surface sediments, 
prior to a third lacustrine phase (beginning about 4000 BC) that culminated in Middle 
Kingdom times, with repeated flooding and wave destruction of the workers' settlements 
near the Qasr el-Sagha temple. Three episodes of unusually high Nile floods are dated 
between 2000 and 1700 BC, but the nature of desert climate at the time is uncertain. The 
Fayum record is reasonably compatible with that from Kom Ombo and Nubia, suggesting 
that the desert surface in northern Egypt had some sort of vegetation cover for most, but 
not all, of the time between 8,500 BP and perhaps 3800 BC (early Predynastic times). 

The best information on late prehistoric climate comes from many sites in the Western 
Desert where sheets of water developed seasonally, or during a run of wet years, on flat 
shallow surfaces known as playas or pans. Most features of this kind simply collected 
surface runoff from large areas after heavy showers, although a subsurface sandsheet 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 230 

might addi-tionally serve to store water for more protracted periods. The Egyptian playas 
accumulated water-borne silt and clay as well as eolian sand, carried in by running water 
or blown in directly. They tend to lack evidence of mollusca, diatoms and other "pond" 
organisms that require more persistent waters, and most probably alternated between 
conditions of stagnant, open water and vegetated marsh, deteriorating to alkali flats on 
occasion. Analogs can now be observed in parts of Nevada, although on a much larger 
scale than in prehistoric Egypt. 

Contrary to some efforts to generalize late prehistoric wet phases in the eastern 
Sahara, there are distinctive regional patterns. First, with the exception of Bir Kiseiba, 
where playa lakes appear before 9,500 BP (at a comparable date to Selima Oasis in 
northern Sudan), more abundant water is first evident at Kharga and Dakhla around 8,800 
BP, and Nabta Playa by 8,200 BP. Second, the first moisture peak at about 8,000 BP is 
inconspicuous in the Gilf Kebir, Dakhla and Fezzan, but prominent in Selima, Kiseiba, 
Nabta, Kharga and the north Tibesti foothills. Third, a playa lake phase at about 6,900- 
5,800 BP at Nabta is unique except at Selima in the Sudan. Fourth, the second moisture 
peak at 5,700-5,000 BP is prominent in Kharga, Dakhla, the Gilf Kebir and Libya, totally 
missing at Nabta and Kiseiba, and weak at Selima. Fifth, there is evidence for lingering 
moisture or tree growth in the Gilf Kebir, northern Tibesti and Libya, and possibly in the 
Eastern Desert circa 4,900-3,700 BP, but nowhere else. 

The lack of synchronic parallelism is best explained by different anomalies in the 
westerlies and the monsoonal circulation. Summer rains appear to have primarily affected 
Kiseiba, Nabta, Kharga and the Tibesti, peaking about 8,000 BP and remaining 
unimportant here after 5,800 BP. Winter or spring rains of the westerly type appear to 
have been dominant in the Gilf Kebir and Lower Nubia, and were responsible for the 
rainfall maximum 5,700-5,000 BP, and its sporadic aftereffects to 3,700 BP, without, 
however, effecting the southernmost playa sites at Kiseiba and Nabta. This presumes 
some measure of overlap between summer and winter rains in the southern part of the 
Egyptian Sahara about 7,500-5,800 BP. Given such a complex picture, it is inappropriate 
to label and date "wet" and "dry" phases as if they had some general validity across the 
eastern Sahara, and even more so to categorize archaeological components with reference 
to such a scheme. 

A second problem in the Western Desert is that there now are large numbers of 
radiocarbon dates, but "geological" and "archaeological" dates are difficult to separate, 
creating a circularity of reasoning in regard to the interrelationships between 
paleoenvironment and settlement: sites are commonly dated by clusters of age assays on 
materials that also date sediments, and dispersed dates on geological phenomena such as 
playa beds typically lead to searches for some surface artifact scatters, that may or may 
not be contemporary. Systematic study of good stratigraphic sequences, such as in the 
Gilf Kebir, has yielded comparatively little direct archaeological association with the 
critical sedimentary units, while the model sequence at Selima Oasis lacks settlement 
evidence entirely, reflecting deep lakes or thick cover sands. Furthermore, plotting all 
radiocarbon dates from the Egyptian Western Desert together suggests above-average 
settlement density for the period 7,100-6,600 BP, when climate was relatively dry in 
most areas, and a low density 6,200-5,800 BP, when it was mainly wetter. The large 
number of radiocarbon dates from the Western Desert creates an illusion that the 

Entries A-Z 231 

archaeology and prehistoric settlement ecology are firmly established. In fact, given the 
time spans and distances involved, research is still in an exploratory phase. 

Questions of cultural contacts and possible desert emigration that interest the 
archaeologist of the late prehistoric Nile Valley require focused research in specific 
adjacent areas, employing extensive survey techniques and interdisciplinary coordination, 
to establish not only dating frameworks but also the micro-ecology of land use on both 
lowlands and uplands. At the moment the database is adequate for little more than the 
recognition of stone tool technologies and broad, ecological scenarios. Perhaps most 
promising for collateral development with the Nile Valley Predynastic are the "Peasant 
Neolithic" and related sites of the Kharga, Dakhla and Farafra oases, where radiocarbon 
dates cluster around 5,700-5,000 BP (circa 4500-3800 BC). The Mediterranean coastal 
plain remains unexplored, however. 

One of the salient features to emerge from recent research is that, since circa 5,000 BP 
(3800 BC), the Egyptian deserts have been about as bleak as they are today. There is little 
tangible evidence of playa beds during this time range, but delayed artesian flow to the 
"mound springs" of Dakhla and Kharga may have continued in diminished volume 
through the 6th Dynasty. 

Other evidence sheds light on minor rainfall anomalies during the historical period. 
Tamarisk trees that colonize small sand dunes, accumulating around oases with a high 
water table, leave a residue of organic debris. Tamarisks are deeply rooted and tolerate 
brackish sources of deep ground moisture, while the needle litter spread over now-buried 
dune surfaces can be dated. In the northern foothills of Tibesti, there were two such 
generations of vegetated dunes, dating to 1600-350 BC and AD 90-650. A higher water 
table over such long intervals implies a trend to slightly greater rainfall, and since some 
of these trees are found on higher ground, there may have been partial dependence on 
more direct rainfall. In Siwa Oasis in northern Egypt, vegetated eolian mounds are dated 
to 2450-1880 BC, 1210-1100 BC, and 70 BC-AD 560. These weak anomalies appear to 
be associated with winter or spring rains in the westerlies. 

Brief intervals of expanded human settlement in favored areas can be compared with 
such undramatic historical evidence. They can be verified in the Gilf Kebir, Kharga and 
Dakhla oases, and in the Red Sea watersheds of the Eastern Desert circa 2700 BC and 
again circa 2300 BC. The abundant 6th Dynasty archaeological record from Dakhla is 
noteworthy, and C-Group-related sites are found around Dungul Oasis, west of the 
Nubian Nile, dating to circa 2000 BC. Such potential relationships merit closer attention, 
as do the Libyan attacks on the western Nile Delta and subsequent immigration beginning 
circa 1210 BC. For now, this must remain an agenda for future fieldwork. 

See also 

C-Group culture; Dakhla Oasis, prehistoric sites; Epi-paleolithic cultures, overview; 
Fayum, Neolithic and Predynastic sites; Kharga Oasis, prehistoric sites; Nile, flood 
history; Paleolithic cultures, overview; Siwa Oasis, prehistoric sites 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 232 

Further reading 

Brooks, LA. 1989. Early Holocene basinal sediments of the Dakhla Oasis region, south central 

Egypt. Quaternary Research 32: 139-52. 
Butzer, K.W. 1995. Environmental change in the Near East and human impact on the land.In 

Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, J.M. Sasson, ed., 123-52. New York. 

. 1998. Late Quaternary problems of the Egyptian Nile Valley. Paleorient 23 (2):151-73. 

Hassan, F.A., and G.T.Gross. 1987. Resources and subsistence during the early Holocene at Siwa 

Oasis, northern Egypt. In Prehistory of Arid North Africa, A.E. Close, ed., 85-104. Dallas. 
Kozlowski, J.K., and B.Ginter. 1989. The Fayum Neolithic in the light of new discoveries. In Late 

Prehistory of the Nile Basin and the Sahara, L.Krzyzaniak and M. Kobusiewicz, eds, 157-80. 

Kropelin, S. 1987. Palaeoclimatic evidence from early to mid-Holocene playas in the Gilf Kebir 

(Southwest Egypt). Palaeoecology of Africa 18:189-208. 
Pachur, H.J., H.P. Roper, S. Kropelin and M. Goschin. 1987. Late Quaternary hydrography of the 

Eastern Sahara. Berliner GeowissenschaftlicheAbhandlungen, A. 75 (2): 331-84. 
Wendorf, F., and R.Schild, eds. 1980. Prehistory of the Eastern Sahara. New York. 


cult temples, construction techniques 

The process of building an Egyptian stone temple can be deduced and reconstructed on 
the basis of the physical remains, particularly unfinished buildings, as well as with the aid 
of some preserved texts, documents and tomb paintings relating to various aspects of the 
work. The ready availability of many types of stone in the Nile valley made the 
construction of mortuary monuments (tombs, pyramids and cenotaphs) and religious 
structures (shrines, chapels and temples) possible almost from the beginning of the 
pharaonic period. The process of temple construction can be divided into five distinct 
phases: (1) planning the structure; (2) preparation of the site and foundation; (3) 
quarrying and delivery of stone; (4) positioning of the stone; and finally, (5) the final 
dressing of the stone and decoration. 

(1) During the initial planning of any temple structure, careful consideration was given 
to its intended purpose and function. The site of a temple may have been dictated by a 
traditional reverence for a hallowed location of great antiquity or for the simple and 
practical considerations of terrain. Sanctified or venerated areas included places 
identified with cosmological events such as the emergence of the primal hill from the 
waters of chaos, or associations from the earliest times with a natural shrine, a grotto or 
cave, such as one which has been found on Elephantine Island. On such revered 
locations, temples grew from simple structures to elaborate complexes by the work of 
successive kings and dynasties. The practical considerations of location often dictated the 
building of temples on the edge of the cultivation at the limit of the inundation, adjacent 

Entries A-Z 233 

to a necropolis, or in some configuration with existing structures, perhaps within an 
established complex. 

The working plan for the structure was developed by an architect, builder or overseer 
of the works, along strict canonical lines. There is evidence that architectural drawings in 
ink on papyrus, prepared wooden panels or flat stone surfaces were made, but only a few 
general examples of temple planning and other architectural projects have been preserved 
and no detailed construction drawings exist. Typically, line drawings of single columns, 
layout sketches for precincts or elevations of small structures such as shrines are all that 
have been found. The amount of detail committed to working plans can only be 

(2) Once a suitable plan had been decided and marked, the emplacement for the 
foundation had to be prepared. For much of Egyptian history this consisted of a series of 
foundation trenches and pits, each designed to level a wall, a single column or a row of 
columns. This trench technique was particularly adaptable to the tradition in which 
successive rulers added to and embellished their predecessors' structures. Sand was put 
into the bottom of the trenches and pits to serve as the leveling surface on which the 
foundation blocks of the structure were positioned, but in some instances the amount of 
sand used is so minimal that it must have only been considered a ritual element and not a 
practical device by which stone could be moved and leveled. 

A network of foundations was constructed to support the entire structure. The 
foundation could be aligned and squared by sighting on surveyor's marks made on plaster 
swatches on the mudbrick precinct walls. The eventual positions of walls, columns and 
other features were often marked by incision on the top surface of each course of the 
foundation. In some instances where a temple structure has been dismantled, the plan is 
still preserved on the upper surface of the stone, even to details of door closures and 
decorative moldings. The depth and effectiveness of this substructure was not consistent 
throughout Egyptian history. The foundation of the Ramesside Hypostyle Hall in the 
Amen temple at Karnak was eventually found to be inadequate to support the weight of 
the columns, especially after subsoil water had further weakened it. 

A much more lasting foundation method was developed late in Egyptian history, 
probably during the 25th Dynasty. This was accomplished by the excavation of a 
foundation pit for the whole temple structure, which was then delimited and lined with 
mudbrick walls and filled with sand. On this well-prepared bedding several courses of 
large foundation stones were laid to create a solid and stable platform to receive the 
architectural elements of the temple. As an example of this construction technique, the 
foundation for the four 26th Dynasty naoi or shrines at Mendes in the eastern Nile Delta 
was massive in size and depth and overcompensated for the weight it had to 
accommodate several times over. 

Each step in the building of a temple was accompanied by prescribed prayers and 
rituals. Illustrated on the north wall of the sanctuary of the small temple at Medinet Habu 
and in other temples, such as at Dendera or Edfu, are a series of acts carried out by the 
king: "The Stretching of the Cord" (measuring the ground plan), "Scattering the 
Gypsum" (marking the plan with white gypsum chips), "Hacking the Earth" (excavating 
the trenches). These are followed by the king molding a brick, offering wine, and making 
an offering to Amen. The founding of the temple was consecrated with the ceremony of 
laying down a symbolic foundation deposit. This usually consisted of model tools and 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 234 

implements, ritual dishes, plaques and model bricks bearing the name of the founder and, 
in some instances, a ceremonial meat offering. These were placed in pits under the 
cornerstones and thresholds and at intervals along the sides of the planned building. 

(3) It is presumed that the actual process of quarrying the stone proceeded at the same 
time as the preparation of the site and the foundation. Stone was only roughly shaped at 
the quarry, with more accurate shaping and finishing done on the building site. Stone was 
transported up and down the Nile Valley on the river; as well, the annual inundation 
further facilitated transportation of materials by boat or raft. Some modern hypotheses 
credit the ancient Egyptians with the use of ingenious systems employed in the 
transportation and lifting of stone for which there is no historical evidence; the 
explanation is usually to be found in massive manpower and the use of available 
materials. Such illustrations on tomb walls as are preserved indicate that even massive 
stone blocks and sculpture were moved on wooden sleds, without benefit of wheels or 
rollers, but with the use of some sort of liquid to help reduce friction. The use of block 
and tackle or the pulley in any form is not indicated. 

Stone for construction was often not produced to a standard module but was instead 
cut, fit and joined in a manner that utilized the material in the varied sizes in which it had 
been delivered from the quarry. There were exceptions, such as in the reign of 
Akhenaten, when considerable construction was ordered in a short time and use was 
made of a standard block size (talatat) based on the Egyptian cubit measure. Often 
material was reused from earlier, dismantled buildings as interior fill in walls and other 
structures. In some of the large pylons in the Amen Precinct at Karnak there have been 
found reused blocks ranging from the small modular units of Akhenaten to large wall and 
roof slabs from shrines. This common practice of reusing material has enabled 
archaeologists to recover evidence of buildings no longer in existence, but still preserved 
in parts as fill. 

(4) At the completion of the foundation, the first course of blocks for walls, thresholds, 
columns and any other features received their rough dressing and were put into place. 
Mortar or cement was generally only used to repair broken corners or ill-fitting junctures, 
and to act as a lubricant for the movement of stone on stone. The use of beams and bars 
to lever stones into place is attested by sharp depressions cut into the upper surface of 
courses exactly at the point where it would have been necessary to provide purchase as 
the block of the next course was placed. 

The entire structure was then packed with a rubble and mudbrick fill to create a 
platform defined by the first course of the exterior walls. Material for the second course 
of walls, columns and other features was brought into place with the aid of temporary 
ramps, also of rubble and mudbrick, positioned and given its final dressing. The packing 
process was repeated, again filling the entire structure with material which would extend 
the level platform to the height of the second course. The ramps were augmented and 
lengthened at the addition of each course and the level of the interior fill heightened so 
that, by the time the roofing blocks were to be positioned, they could be moved across the 
top of the structure, as had been the other blocks, over the composite platform of stone 
and packing. It is difficult to visualize an Egyptian temple completely filled from floor 
level to roof with brick and rubble, but this seems to have been the most practical and 
economical building method in a country where wood was scarce and rarely used for 
ramps or scaffolding. 

Entries A-Z 235 

(5) When the construction phase was complete the filling process was reversed; the 
rubble fill was removed slowly so that the same material which had served as a platform 
for moving blocks could also function as a temporary floor, reducible in height, on which 
the finishing masons, relief sculptors and painters could work. Thus, the final dressing of 
the stone for walls and columns was done in place. This can be seen most clearly in the 
first court of the Amen Temple at Karnak where unfinished columns, completely erected, 
still await the final dressing and carving away of excess stone. In other instances this 
process is demonstrated by the presence of decoration which is carefully finished at the 
top of walls or columns but done with less care at the bottom, suggesting some 
acceleration of the process in finishing the building. 

The Egyptian temple was finished with carved and painted decoration on the interior 
and exterior walls, presenting a colorful effect far from the modern impression given by 
the predominant color of sandstone seen today. There are enough preserved traces of 
original painted decoration to suggest the intended appearance of temples, particularly 
where walls were protected by later over-plastering, as they were at the temple of 
Medinet Habu. Colorful glazed tile decoration was also employed in the embellishment 
of some temple structures in some periods. It should be noted that not all temples were 
finished completely in stone before being decorated. Some temple structures were only 
completed in unbaked mudbrick, which was plastered and painted to resemble the more 
substantial parts made of stone. In the Precinct of Mut at Karnak the remains of two 
major pylons exist only in mudbrick, attesting to this practice. It might be said that much 
of Egyptian monumental architecture was a combination of careful stone work and a 
cosmetic concealment of inferior materials. Since the final appearance and total 
impression of a temple was based on the finishing of the structure in plaster and paint, it 
was important that the surface appearance was maintained. 

See also 

Karnak, precinct of Mut; Karnak, temple of Amen-Re; Medinet Habu; quarrying; 
sculpture (stone), production techniques 

Further reading 

Arnold, D. 1991. Building in Egypt: Pharaonic Stone Masonry. London. 
Baldwin Smith, E. 1938. Egyptian Architecture as Cultural Expression. New York. 
Cernival, 1964. Living Architecture: Egyptian. London. 
Golvin, J.-C, and J.-C.Goyon. 1987. Les batisseurs de Karnak. Paris. 


Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 236 

cult temples of the New Kingdom 

The temple in ancient Egypt was essentially the mansion or dwelling of a deity, and as 
such it was expected to fulfill all the functions of a domicile. The dressing and toilet of 
the god along with regular provision of sustenance (the offerings) were of prime concern 
in the layout and appointments of Egyptian temples. But other considerations such as the 
housing of guest gods and the ex-votos of devotees, the deities' promenades and journeys, 
the banking and disbursement of the god's income, the instruction and admonition of the 
masses, all weighed heavily in dictating the physical arrangements of the god's house, 
especially in the New Kingdom. 

The most successful architectural solution to all these demands was realized in the 
processional temple of early 18th Dynasty origin. The roots of this temple lie in the 
earlier cult temples of the Middle Kingdom; these are self-contained, enclosed units, in 
which the cella provided the focal point for a surrounding complex of ancillary rooms. It 
was the contribution of the deviser of the processional temple to front this basic complex 
with three "screening" elements: a hypostyle hall, a peristyle and a pylon built along the 
elongated axis of the core temple. These elements essentially distanced the deity from the 
outside world, since the pylon-pierced cross walls permitted the creation of a cordoned- 
off security area: the common folk were not permitted beyond the first court. The 
hypostyle and inner ambulations provided considerable space in which to house the ever 
increasing number of ex-voto statues of private individuals, beneficiaries and supporters 
of the god, who were in return allowed to partake of the divine offerings in perpetuity. 
Side doors of the outer courts could be used as law courts and places for public business, 
and it has been suggested that the balcony over the front gate between the pylons was 
used by choirs. 

The elongation of the central axis of the New Kingdom temple principally highlighted 
the processional way of the god, and turned this aspect of the cult from a simple 
promenade into a parade. Since the journey was made in a sacred bark borne upon the 
shoulders of the priests, it was necessary to set aside a room in the environs of the cella 
(where the god "dwelt" in the form of a statue in the naos) for the purpose of housing the 
bark. Thus, in the classically designed processional temple, a "bark shrine" equipped with 
a stone block on which the bark sat when not in use was placed in advance of the cella. 
The placing of the cult statue in the bark, and the latter's progress through antechambers, 
hypostyle, peristyle and pylon to the dromos leading to the landing stage and canal, was 
rationalized as the creator-god's primordial act of creation. The cella, a low-roofed room 
built on the highest point in the temple, became the mound of creation on which the deity 
at the dawn of time had performed his act of creation in semidarkness. Thereafter, the 
deity emerges in his bark upon the surface of the Primeval Ocean (Nun), through the 
semi-twilight of the archetypal marsh (the hypostyle), into the half light of the lagoon 
where the reeds draw back (the peristyle), and finally dawning in full light of day 
between the two mountains of the east (the pylon). The lotus and papyriform columns of 
the fore-halls enhanced this imagery. 

Entries A-Z 237 

After some early experimentation, it became an accepted pattern to decorate temple 
wall surfaces which the masses could see with themes which would admonish and 
chasten them within the ambit of the aims of the political hierarchy. Thus, the fronts of 
pylons and the exterior facades of the side walls of the forecourts were often (although 
not always) reserved for relief scenes depicting Pharaoh's triumphs over foreign lands 
and his policing action against recalcitrants and terrorists. The "head-smiting" scene, 
showing the king about to crush the skulls of a clutch of foreign rebels, became a favorite 
theme for the decoration of the exterior face of the first pylon, and in later times gave rise 
to an instruction manual on how to draw the scene expertly. The side walls and those in 
the first court, where the masses were allowed, often recounted specific military 
successes, albeit larded with a high-flown rhetoric in the case of the accompanying text. 

At the point where further access was restricted to priests and nobility, the character of 
the relief scenes changes. Here cultic themes dominated the repertoire, including (and 
especially) the offering scene showing the king as celebrant, processional scenes, temple 
foundation scenes, a simple coronation scene showing the king kneeling before the god, 
introduction scenes (ancillary gods leading the king into the presence of the principal 
deity), and sometimes detailed portrayals of particular festivals. Here and there along the 
dromos and longitudinal axis stood stelae, those within view of the public being usually 
"triumph" texts recounting the prowess of the king and his mighty deeds in peace and 
war. Closer to the cella were stelae inscribed with texts intended for the god: hymns, 
records of bequests, supplications, memorials and so on. The walls of storage chambers 
were also decorated, usually with offering scenes, but the reliefs and inscriptions do not 
often betray the contents of the store; in fact it is generally difficult to elicit specific room 
use from the reliefs in a chamber. In addition to "official" reliefs and inscriptions, one 
might also encounter "unofficial" private graffiti within the restricted sectors of the 
temple: priests might carve self-laudatory texts giving their pedigrees, prayers and 
supplications, oracles which had issued in their favor, or even their contracts within the 
temple. Such texts, together with the ubiquitous visitors' scribblings, usually date from 
periods when the temple was suffering from hard times and security was lax. 

The main temple at a site was often surrounded within its temenos by a number of 
ancillary installations. Most temples had a sacred lake close at hand for purification and 
libations. The houses of the high-priest and his associate priests nestled close to the main 
shrine, as did special structures designed as treasuries. To accommodate the processionals 
of the sacred bark, way-stations would be built at intervals along the route, consisting of 
peripheral one-room shrines with a block to receive the bark. Shrines for "guest" gods 
(usually smaller versions of the main temple) could be included within the principal 

The pattern of the processional temple described above was adopted mutatis mutandis 
for most of the township deities (nome gods) in Upper Egypt. In Lower Egypt it is 
attested at several sites (for example, Buto, Mendes, Bubastis, Heliopolis and (probably) 
Saft el-Henneh), but the inferior record of excavation in the Delta continues to deprive us 
of much-needed evidence. The prevalence in the north of cults in which an animal was 
revered as principal divine avatar dictated slightly different arrangements from those 
demanded by the procession. The cow at Atfih, the Apis and Mnevis bulls at Memphis 
and Heliopolis respectively, the cat at Bubastis, the lion at Leontopolis and the ram at 
Mendes all required well-appointed "stalls" as well as cellae, and a place to rest after 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 238 

death. Thus there grew up separate structures to house the animal in life, and a burying- 
ground (subterranean toward the close of the New Kingdom) with stone sarcophagi to 
receive the mummified animal remains. At Heliopolis, the special requirements of sun 
worship created a type of temple in which large, simple courts open to the sky dominated 
the plan. It may well have been this feature of the solar cult which impressed itself on the 
heretic pharaoh Akhenaten when he designed his vast shrines at Karnak and Amarna, 
dedicated to the Sun-disc. 

The strength of the monarchy throughout the New Kingdom is reflected in the size and 
nature of the royal funerary temple. At Thebes and Memphis there grew up a series of 
these structures, called in the jargon of the times "The-Temple-of-Millions-of- Years of 
King so-and-so"; at Abydos a sequence of cenotaphs or "resting-places" where, in 
company with the ancestors, the royal spirits might consort with Osiris. At West Thebes, 
by the middle of the 18th Dynasty the layout of the processional temple had been adopted 
in toto, save that now it was a king that was the owner and occupant rather than a 
member of the pantheon. On the south side of the first court, and abutting onto it, was a 
small palace which communicated with the temple by means of a balcony ("Window of 
Appearances"). The palace housed the king and his entourage during those few weeks 
every year when the court took up residence at Thebes — the king normally dwelt in 
Memphis or Pi-Ramesses — in order to participate in one of the local festivals. Ostensibly 
serving the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, the New Kingdom funerary temples 
functioned within the overall administration of the greater Amen temple on the east bank. 

Of lesser cult temples we know scarcely more than the names. Shrines of the 
"protected images" (divine barks and their occupants) are mentioned in New Kingdom 
texts; and minor manifestations of major deities sometimes spawned small cult centers in 
and around more important towns. These were small affairs, modestly appointed and 
commensurate with the penury of the lower classes that frequented them. Natural 
phenomena — trees, hilltops, wild animals — might also find themselves the object of a 
spontaneous cult, likewise with rudimentary installations for carrying on divine service. 

See also 

Karnak, Akhenaten temples; Karnak, temple of Amen-Re; Luxor, temple of; religion, 
state; representational evidence, New Kingdom temples; Thebes, royal funerary temples 

Further reading 

Barguet, P. 1962. Le Temple d'Amon-re a Karnak. Cairo. 

Finnestad, R.B. 1985. Image of the World and Symbol of the Creator. Wiesbaden. 

Helck, W., ed. 1987. Tempel und Kult. Wiesbaden. 

Spencer, P. 1984. The Egyptian Temple: A Lexicographical Study. London. 


Entries A-Z 239 

cult temples prior to the New Kingdom 

The building history of Egyptian temples may be divided into a pre-formal and a formal 
stage, following the work of Barry Kemp and others. Pre-formal characterizes the earliest 
known Egyptian shrines developed in the Predynastic era and continuing largely until the 
Middle Kingdom, with even a few New Kingdom examples attested. Formal denotes the 
standard, processional, royally sponsored temples that began to be built throughout Egypt 
by the Middle Kingdom, though they achieved fullest development only in the 18th 
Dynasty of the New Kingdom. 

The earliest cult temples were mainly the creation of individual Egyptian 
communities, starting in the Predynastic era. They followed local traditions, including a 
wide variety of shapes, forms, architecture and decoration. For instance, at Elephantine, a 
cleft between two large granite boulders served as the focus point of early religious 
belief. From the artifacts recovered, not even the name of the resident deities can be 
identified. At Medamud, a grove of trees surrounded by an irregular polygonal wall was 
the earliest attested shrine. Elsewhere, other styles are found. 

Early Dynastic decoration, labels and other materials sometimes illustrate what local 
shrines of that era looked like. There is a general pattern of an enclosed courtyard, an 
offering stand and a sanctuary, all built of mudbrick, or of reed and mud plaster. A large 
image of the deity may dominate the sanctuary, even projecting above the roof line. Such 
was the actual shrine at Coptos in the Late Predynastic to Early Dynastic eras. Two 
immense colossal statues of the god Min, already in his identifiable hieratic pose, stood in 
the sanctuary area. They must have dominated the shrine and projected above it. Their 
antiquity is extreme, as Narmer scratched on them his name (serekh) amidst the already 
carved older graffiti on the legs of the figures. Another echo of the archaic Min shrine is 
seen in later depictions of the deity in the shape of a conical peaked booth, with a totem 
symbol atop. Again, the deity is much larger than the booth, perhaps recalling the archaic 
images. Small finds from early shrines add further to the types of buildings depicted. 
Many show a round-topped reed-constructed shrine, with the divine image within. A 
Field Museum (Chicago) late Nagada I chaff-tempered-class jar has scratched onto its 
side a rectangular building of reeds, with flagpoles and flags at each end. Early versions 
of shrines also are found in the famed '^""^"court of Zoser's funerary complex at 

The Nagada II buff-painted pottery is another source of early divine totem emblems. 
Pots showing boats with cabins often depict an attached pole with an image fixed atop it. 
The repertoire of totems include the familiar stylized thunderbolt of Min, jackals or other 
canines, symbolizing Asyut's Wepwawet, and Abydos's Khenty-Imentyw. A group of 
three hills symbolizes Thebes, taken from three mountains that still dominate the eastern 
horizon at the site. A stylized woman's head with bovine ears is an early icon of Hathor 
of Dendera and Bat, a deity of Nome VII of Upper Egypt. An elephant perhaps 
symbolizes Elephantine. Many of these totems can be identified with later deities because 
they appear as fixed imagery for the respective deity. 

Even after Egypt's political unification in the 1st Dynasty, very sparse royal activity is 
attested at the provincial cult centers. It seems that whatever these early governments 
could muster was concentrated at the capital, Memphis, and at Heliopolis, its suburb 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 240 

devoted to the solar cult of Re. Heliopolis too had a pre-formal cult symbol, but one 
subsequently adopted by the formal religion. The shrine was open to the sky, in a 
courtyard with a tall, raised stone (menhir) at one end, called the ben-ben stone. This ben- 
ben was regularized by the 5th Dynasty into the short squat obelisk of the Abusir and 
Abu Gurab solar temples. The ben-ben underwent further development, becoming the 
obelisk of Middle and New Kingdom Egypt. At Heliopolis, an obelisk built by Senusret I 
of the 12th Dynasty still marks the temple site. The solar temples of Abusir and Abu 
Gurab received extensive royal patronage during the 5th Dynasty through the influence of 
Re's cult on the royal persona. The temples had reliefs, depicting scenes of the seasonal 
spirits and activities, temple foundation ceremonies, and events of the king's reign, 
especially the jubilee (fl*MW) ceremony. These reliefs were carved in a corridor that 
flanked the open-air court and opened onto the ben-ben. The solar temples represent the 
earliest royally sponsored formal temples; temples to Re ever afterward retained the 
open-air court style. 

The meager royal resources devoted to the other cults echoes in the finds excavated 
from them. At Elephantine Island, German archaeologists found a plaque of faience 
dedicated by Pepi I of the 6th Dynasty. At Dendera, a text in the much later Ptolemaic 
and Roman temple commemorates an early dedication by Pepi I. At Coptos (Quft), 
exemption decrees were issued by the 6th and 8th Dynasty pharaohs in favor of the 
temples of Min and Isis. This royal patronage to Coptos stemmed from Pepi I's marriage 
to two daughters of the nomarch of Coptos, and similar ties of the nomarch to the 8th 
Dynasty rulers. The exemption decrees illuminate another aspect of royal policy toward 
local shrines. The early Egyptian temples were not automatically tax-exempt. Only by a 
special decree of pharaoh could they achieve tax-exempt status. 

Zoser's funerary temple complex at Saqqara illustrates another aspect of early cult 
temples. At the celebration of the king's jubilee (h?b- .ted), the nomes (provinces) were 
expected to send their divine images to Memphis, where they were enshrined at the 
ftfft-j'ffifsite. The gods had to approve a king's rejuvenation and rededication at the 
ceremony, thus their presence was required. The chapels of the gods of Upper Egypt and 
Lower Egypt respectively flank the ^"-^court of Zoser. Another example of royal 
patronage to shrines is mentioned in the Royal Annals of the 1st to 5th Dynasties. 
Occasionally a regnal year is named after a divine cult image fashioned and dedicated 
that year. Local deities were also depicted on statuary created for the royal funerary 
temples in the 4th and 5th Dynasties. 

Certain special shrines received much attention from the early monarchy. One was 
Hierakonpolis (Nekhen), an early Predynastic center. Its deity, Horus, was the god in 
whom pharaoh was incarnate. The ancient shrine at Nekhen was pre-formal, a raised oval 
structure with a simple building atop it; this came to symbolize Nekhen in the 
hieroglyphic script. Khasekhemwy of the 2nd Dynasty dedicated a granite gateway and 
statues of himself, and archaic kings from Scorpion to Narmer dedicated palettes and 
maceheads and other artifacts displayed in this ancient shrine. Fortunately for later 
archaeology, when a formal shrine was built at Nekhen by Tuthmose III of the New 
Kingdom, all the early, archaic dedications to the shrine were collected and placed in a 
sealed deposit, where J.E.Quibell excavated them early in the twentieth century. Another 
early shrine that received special royal attention was Buto in the central Delta, 

Entries A-Z 241 

symbolizing the kings of Lower Egypt; the deep antiquity of this town has also been 

Abydos received much early royal attention as the burial place of the earliest Dynastic 
kings. The cult temple in the town was originally dedicated to a jackal deity, named 
Khenty-Imentyw. A small mudbrick walled structure was probably built in the 1st or 2nd 
Dynasty; already it displayed a court and chapel structure. Minor royal dedications were 
made to it, including a small ivory statuette of Khufu. From excavated evidence it seems 
clear that early provincial shrines, aside from those affiliated with the monarchy and the 
royal capital, received little or no royal patronage right through the late Old Kingdom. 
The pre-formal temples continued to function as they had from time immemorial, 
operated by their local community; these temples were not even normally tax-exempt. 

During the 11th and 12th Dynasties in the Middle Kingdom, the pharaohs began to 
build formal, royally patronized temples in many of the provincial capitals and towns. 
Evidence for such activity is attested at many sites, including Thebes, Medamud, Armant, 
Tod, Dendera, Abydos, Hermopolis, throughout the Fayum, Memphis, Heliopolis and in 
the Delta. All these sites have Middle Kingdom ruins or reused blocks from later 
structures. At Thebes, the Middle Kingdom pharaohs founded the temple of Amen at 
Karnak, and built the earliest court and sanctuary. The Theban nome became specially 
favored as their home base. At Elephantine, the pre-formal religion continued, with a 
substantial shrine dedicated to Pepi-y^-P-ib, an Old Kingdom nomarch who had been 
deified. Within it, the local notables dedicated their own statues. This tradition of local 
notables dedicating statues in temples continued into the New Kingdom. The statues 
often asked for prayers from passers-by for a particular deity, and invoked blessings on 
those who heeded. 

Another cult eventually developed around the person of Imhotep, architect of King 
Zoser, to whom an early instruction is attributed. Several other wise men are 
commemorated in the collection of stories, Khufu and the Magicians. These tales mention 
a temple of Thoth in which was a secret chamber. The few formal shrines of Middle 
Kingdom date that survive in good condition indicate that the standard type of formal 
architecture for temples, with gateway, court, pillared hall (hypostyle) and sanctuary, was 
developed in this era. The best-preserved example is at Medinet Madi in the Fayum 
region. Also, the great religious festivals with their processions of deities' images may 
have started in this period. The earliest known bark resting shrine, that of Senusret I, 
occurs at Karnak, where it was retrieved from a later building. 

Finally, from the Middle Kingdom era come two stories that echo the earlier, pre- 
formal religion inasmuch as deities reveal themselves to private individuals with the goal 
of receiving cult offerings. The first tale, The Shipwrecked Sailor, concerns a bejeweled 
serpent deity living on a magical isle who reveals himself to be the Lord of Punt. The 
second tale, the Story of the Herdsman, concerns a revelation of Hathor to a herdsman 
working in the Delta marshes. A case of more formal involvement of divine figures with 
royalty is the final tale in the cycle of stories, Khufu and the Magicians. In it, Re fathers 
three sons by the wife of a priest of Re, who are then delivered by Isis, Khnum, 
Meskhenet and Meqal, who present themselves as midwives and assistants in the human 
guise of a porter and dancers. This tale in its basic aspects foreshadows the divine birth 
accounts of the New Kingdom, and it may be the origin of the genre. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 242 

The Middle Kingdom stands at the transition from pre-f ormal to formal religion in the 
cult temples, but it still has strong echoes of the earlier, pre-formal religion. Even in the 
New Kingdom, shrines like that of Ptah at Deir el-Medina, located in a cleft in the 
mountain, or the veneration of the peak over the Valley of the Kings, and the various 
shrines of Amen related to mountain peaks, such as Gebel Barkal or the Roaring Crag at 
Gebel el-Teir in Middle Egypt, basically echo the pre-formal early religion. 

See also 

Elephantine; Hierakonpolis; Karnak, temple of Amen-Re; Medamud; obelisks; pottery, 
prehistoric; Quft/Qift (Coptos); representational evidence, Early Dynastic; Saqqara, 
pyramids of the 3rd Dynasty; Tod 

Further reading 

Arnold, D. 1996. Hypostyle halls of the Old and Middle Kingdom? In Studies in Honor of William 

Kelly Simpson 1, P.D.Manuelian, ed., 39-54. Boston. 
Badawy, A. 1954-66. History of Egyptian Architecture, 3 vols. Berkeley, CA. 
Kemp, B.J. 1989. Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization. New York. 
O'Connor, D. 1992. The status of early Egyptian temples. In The Followers ofHorus: Studies 

Dedicated to Michael Allen Hoffman, 83-98. Oxford. 


Cypriot peoples 

The island of Cyprus, situated some 400km to the northeast of the Nile Delta, has served 
over the millennia as a crucial link between Egypt and the Mediterranean. The island 
supplied Egypt with such commodities as copper and wood, and was itself a consumer of 
Egyptian products. Moreover, given the prevailing counter-clockwise winds of the 
eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus was an important landfall for ships sailing from the Delta 
to more westerly ports. 

The earliest secure evidence for contact between Egypt and Cyprus can be dated to the 
later part of the Second Intermediate Period (13th-17th Dynasties). Cypriot pottery 
(White Painted Pendant Line and Cross Line styles, and of White Painted VI, Base Ring I 
and Red Lustrous fabrics) has been found in Egypt and Nubia in Second Intermediate 
Period contexts, at Tarkhan, Sidmant, Dishasha, Abydos, el-Shalla, Deir Rifa and Aniba. 
Further evidence for contact between the two regions is demonstrated by Tell el- 
Yahudiya pottery, which was imitated in Cyprus. This pottery was first identified at the 
Hyksos site in the Nile Delta, but is now understood as a set of related wares produced in 
both Egypt and Palestine during the Second Intermediate Period. 

Entries A-Z 243 

There seems to have been no dramatic break in the importation of Cypriot material 
into Egypt following the expulsion of the Hyksos. Cypriot pottery continued to be 
brought into Egypt in some quantity throughout the 18th Dynasty. White Slip bowls and 
Base Ring juglets (bilbils) were especially popular imports, and it has been suggested that 
the latter may have served as containers for opium. Such juglets have been recovered 
from many 18th Dynasty tombs throughout Egypt and are by far the most common type 
of Cypriot ceramics found in the Nile Valley. 

In Cyprus, the earliest securely dated con texts to yield Egyptian material belong to a 
period roughly equivalent to the reigns of Amenhotep I to Tuthmose II (early 18th 
Dynasty). This material consists of alabaster, faience and glass vessels as well as scarabs 
and jewelry. The existence of a scarab of Senusret I (12th Dynasty) found on the surface 
of the Late Bronze Age site of Enkomi raises the possibility that contact between Egypt 
and Cyprus may have begun as early as the Middle Kingdom. However, the presence of a 
faience scepter head with the cartouche of King Horemheb (end 18th Dynasty) found in 
an early twelfth century BC context at Hala Sultan Teke and the discovery of a scarab of 
Amenhotep III in an eleventh century BC grave at Palaepaphos-Skales suggest that many 
of the Egyptian artifacts in Cyprus may have been imported into the island considerably 
after the time of their manufacture. 

It is often impossible to determine whether a particular example of Egyptian material 
found in Cyprus had been manufactured in Egypt or was an Egyptianizing object 
produced in the Levant. Similarly, it is impossible to tell whether the Cypriot pottery 
found in Egypt or the Egyptian material found in Cyprus had been transmitted between 
the two areas directly, or whether Levantine traders were responsible for this exchange. 

A majority of scholars agree that the kingdom of "Alashiya" referred to in Egyptian, 
Hittite, Ugaritic and Mesopotamian texts of the eighteenth to twelfth centuries BC most 
likely was Cyprus. If the association of Cyprus and Alashiya is correct, then the evidence 
for trade between Cyprus and 18th Dynasty Egypt that survives in the material record 
can, in part, be attributed to the system of royal gift exchange documented in the Amarna 
Letters. Some of these letters (EA 33-40) record large quantities of copper being shipped 
by the king of Alashiya in exchange for ebony, gold, linen and other items from the 
pharaoh. The mid-fourteenth century BC Ulu Burun shipwreck, which was carrying 
several tons of copper ingots as well as Cypriot pottery when it sank off the southern 
coast of Turkey, may well have been part of this gift exchange network. On the other 
hand, the eclectic nature of the Ulu Burun cargo cautions against interpreting Late Bronze 
Age trade in the eastern Mediterranean in terms of nationalized merchant fleets. Much of 
this trade was likely to have been conducted by independent shippers with multinational 
crews. The mixed Cypriot, Minoan, Palestinian and local Libyan ceramics recovered in 
Egypt on an islet at Marsa Matruh may indicate that this small, fourteenth century BC 
entrepot and revictualing station had been utilized by such multinational shippers. 

The importation of fine-ware Cypriot pottery into Egypt was dramatically reduced at 
the end of the 18th Dynasty. Some scholars have argued that Cypriot trade with Egypt 
had been controlled by the Levantine city of Ras Shamra, and that the reduction of 
Cypriot imports into Egypt after the Amarna period (reign of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten) 
resulted from the Hittite conquest of that city. More recent scholarship, however, has 
shown that the majority of New Kingdom Egyptian material found in Cyprus is 19th 
Dynasty (LCIIC to LCIIA:1 periods on Cyprus). The reduced importation of hand-made 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 244 

Cypriot fine-wares into 19th Dynasty Egypt may thus represent the growing popularity in 
Egypt for wheel-made Mycenaean pottery — perhaps transmitted via Cyprus — rather than 
reflecting a politically motivated trade embargo. 

It would appear that there was virtually no direct or indirect exchange between Cyprus 
and Egypt for nearly two centuries after the end of the 19th Dynasty. The 18th or 19th 
Dynasty artifacts which occasionally appear in Cypriot contexts of the twelfth or eleventh 
centuries BC are probably best understood as heirlooms, or may represent a Levantine 
trade in Egyptian antiquities. In the poorly preserved conclusion of the Egyptian text of a 
late 20th Dynasty shipwrecked official named Wenamen, an interpreter was needed to 
appeal for help from the queen of Alashiya. This suggests that the network of royal gift 
exchange had broken down by the close of the twelfth century BC. 

In the ninth century BC Egyptian and Egyptianizing artifacts, primarily scarabs and 
faience figurines, are once again found in some quantities in Cypriot contexts, such as at 
the Phoenician temple of Astarte at Kition. However, since virtually no Cypriot material 
of this date has been reported from Egypt, it is likely that this early Iron Age material was 
brought to the island by Phoenician and other Levantine traders. Such intermediaries 
were also probably responsible for the continued importation of Egyptian material into 
Cyprus during the subsequent eighth and seventh centuries BC, when the island came 
under the domination of the Assyrian empire. 

After the fall of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh in 612 BC, a resurgent Egypt began to 
move against Cyprus. The first century BC historian Diodorus (1.68.1) records a 
successful naval expedition by "Hopre" (King Wahibre of the 26th Dynasty, more 
commonly known as Apries) against Cyprus and Phoenicia. Herodotus (II. 182.2) claims 
that Hophra's successor Ahmose II (Amasis) was the first to take Cyprus and subject it to 
tribute. When in the reign of Ahmose II Cyprus was conquered, and for how long it 
remained under Egyptian hegemony, is difficult to determine. Some scholars have 
attempted to link stylistic developments of Cypriot statuary to the political fortunes of the 
island in the sixth century BC, and have suggested that the cessation of the socalled 
Cypro-Egyptian style of sculpture around 545 BC was a result of the island coming under 
Persian domination. More recent studies have stressed the fact that Egyptianizing motifs 
can be found on local Cypriot statuary from circa 650 to 450 BC, and that these 
Egyptianizing features reflect local social or ethnic factors rather than political 
developments. It is thus most likely that Cyprus remained in Egyptian hands until the 
Persian campaign (under Cambyses) against Egypt in 526 BC. 

With the destruction of the Persian empire by Alexander the Great, Cyprus once again 
came under the control of an Egyptian power, the Macedonian dynasty of the Ptolemies. 
Contested among the successors of Alexander in the first two decades after his death, 
Cyprus was in full Ptolemaic control by the end of the fourth century BC and would 
remain an integral part of that kingdom until the middle of the first century BC. 
Administered by a high-ranking governor — on occasion a brother of the king — Cyprus 
served as a staging ground for Ptolemaic military operations in the Aegean as well as a 
resource for supplying Egypt with wood and other materials. 

When the Ptolemaic kingdom fell to the Romans after the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, 
Egypt and Cyprus were administered separately. Trade between Cyprus and Egypt 
continued uninterruptedly, however, as the exchange of fine-ware (terra sigillata) and 
transport amphorae demonstrate. The conquest of Egypt by the Arabs, which began in 

Entries A-Z 245 

AD 640, marked the end of a millennium of close contact between Cyprus and Graeco- 
Roman Egypt. 

See also 

Hyksos; Late and Ptolemaic periods, overview; New Kingdom, overview; Roman period, 
overview; Tell el-Yahudiya; Third Intermediate Period, overview 

Further reading 

Astrom, P. 1984. Aegyptiaca at Hala Sultan Tekke. Opuscula Atheniensia 15:17-24. 
Bagnall, R.S. 1976. The Administration of the Ptolemaic Possessions outside Egypt. Leiden. 
Clerc, G., V.Karageorghis, E.Lagarce and J. Leclant. 1976. Fouilles de Kition 2: Objets egyptiens 

et egyptisants. Nicosia. 
Clerc, G. 1983. Appendix I, Aegyptiaca de Palaepaphos-Skales. In Palaepaphos-Skales, An Iron 

Age Cemetery in Cyprus, V.Karageorghis, ed., 375-95. Ausgrabungen in Alt Paphos auf Cypern 

Cline, E. 1994. Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: International Trade and the Late Bronze Age Aegean. 

Courtois, J.-C. 1990. Aegyptiaca de Kouklia-Palaepaphos. Report of the Department of Antiquities, 

Cyprus: 69-74. 
lacobsson, I. 1994. Aegyptiaca from Late Bronze Age Cyprus (Studies in Mediterranean 

Archaeology 112). Goteborg. 
Merrillees, R.S. 1968. The Cypriot Bronze Age Pottery Found in Egypt. Studies in Mediterranean 

Archaeology 18. Goteborg. 

. 1987. Alashia Revisited (Cahiers de la Revue biblique 22). Paris. 

Peltenberg, E.I. 1986. Ramesside Egypt and Cyprus. In Acts of the International Archaeological 

Symposium "Cyprus between the Orient and the Occident," Nicosia, 8-14 September, 1985, 

V.Karageorghis, ed., 149-79. Nicosia. 
Reyes, A.T. 1994. Cyprus and Egypt. In Archaic Cyprus. A Study of the Textual and 

Archaeological Evidence, 149-79. Nicosia. 


Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 246 

Entries A-Z 247 


Dahshur, the Bent Pyramid 

The site of Dahshur is 26km south of the Giza pyramids on the west bank of the Nile, 
about 4.5km from the river (29°48' N, 31°14' E). Two of the four pyramids of Seneferu, 
the first king of the 4th Dynasty, are located here. The more southerly of the two has been 
variously called the Bent, Rhomboidal, Blunt, False or Double-Sloping Pyramid. The 
other pyramid, 2km to the north, is known as the Red or Northern Stone Pyramid. 

The ancient name of the Bent Pyramid was "The Southern Pyramid Seneferu Gleams." 
Its base is 183.5m square, and its original height was 105.07m (the present height is 
101.15m). This site was visited by Richard Pococke in 1743. In 1750, when Robert 
Wood, James Dawkins and the Italian artist Giovanni Borra surveyed the pyramid, the 
northern corridor was blocked up 64.8m from the entrance. It was cleared by J.S.Perring 
in 1839, and he also unblocked the upper entrance corridor leading from the western face 
of the pyramid. In his survey of 1843, Richard Lepsius catalogued it under number LVI. 
Later investigators, working for the Egyptian Antiquities Service, were Gustave Jequier 
in 1924, Abdel Salam Hussein in 1946-9 and Ahmed Fakhry (assisted by Ricke) in 
1951-2 and 1955. In 1961, Maragioglio and Rinaldi published a report on the whole 

The pyramid is unique among the pyramids of the Old Kingdom. Externally its 
superstructure has two angles of incline, and internally there are two corbel-vaulted 
chambers with separate passageways, one from the north face to the lower chamber, and 
the other from the west face to the upper chamber. No other pyramid has preserved so 
much of its outer casing. 

The first plan was to build a pyramid with a base measurement of 156m square and a 
slope of 60°. Cracks developed when the pyramid reached a height of either 34m (the 
height of the western entrance) or 49.07m (the height of the change of angle). The base 
was subsequently enlarged to 188.6m square and the slope was reduced to 43°31T3". 
More cracks appeared, and at a perpendicular height of 49.07m the slope was further 
reduced to 43°21'. The instability of the pyramid has been ascribed to its builders having 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 248 

overestimated the carrying properties of the clay foundation. In the lower part of the 
pyramid they employed the same technique of laying the stones on inwardly inclined 
beds as had been used in earlier pyramids. The stones in the upper part are smaller and 
poorer in quality than those in the lower part, and they are laid in flat or nearly flat beds. 

The lower corridor, which is about 78.6m long, 1.06m wide and 1.1m high, opens 
from the northern face of the pyramid at a height of 11.8m above the level of its base. It 
has a gradient of 28°22', which diminishes slightly as it descends to an antechamber. The 
lower chamber, a corbel-roofed room built in a pit hollowed perpendicularly downward 
through the rock from ground level, measures 6.25m north-south, 5.0m east-west, and is 
17.3m high. The reason for the many layers of stone blocks which were laid on the floor 
of this chamber is obscure, unless perhaps it was thought that they would increase the 
stability of the building. On floor level, opposite the entrance to the chamber, a passage 
3m long leads to the base of a high and narrow shaft or chimney, the purpose of which is 
also unknown. 

The entrance to the corridor leading to the upper chamber is at a height of 33.22m 
above the base of the pyramid and is 13.7m south of the center of the west face. The 
downward sloping corridor is about 67.5m long, 1.05m wide and 1.09m high. For the last 
20m it is horizontal. Near each end of the horizontal section there is a limestone 
portcullis, which slid on its edge obliquely from a cavity in a side wall. After sealing the 
western portcullis on the inside, the workmen must have left the corridor by a passage 
hewn through about 18.8m of core masonry to an opening in the south side of the roof of 
the lower chamber. 

Over the floor of the upper chamber, as in the lower chamber, a layer of stone blocks 
at least 5m deep had been superimposed. When this layer was removed in 1946, a 
framework of thick cedar poles, stretching from wall to wall, was revealed. The purpose 
of the framework may have been to counter inward pressure on the walls after the 
discovery of cracks in the stonework. 

In addition to the pyramid, remnants of other standard elements of an Old Kingdom 
pyramid complex have survived. The flat-roofed mortuary temple housed a low alabaster 
altar, flanked by two round-topped stelae, each with a carved figure of the seated king. 
Also carved on the stelae were the king's names and titles placed within a frame, which 
was surmounted by the royal falcon wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt. 

A subsidiary pyramid, which lies 55m south of the Bent Pyramid, has an entrance 
corridor with two antithetical gradients of unequal length. The first descends, and after a 
very short horizontal section with a portcullis, there is a longer ascending one. Four 
limestone plugs were stored in the inner end of this corridor, but when they were released 
only the two front blocks slid down into the corridor. On the east side of this pyramid 
were two stelae. The position of the subsidiary pyramid, due south of the main pyramid, 
suggests that it fulfilled the same function as the South Mastaba (Tomb) in Zoser's Step 
Pyramid complex. 

A causeway 704m long ran from a temple near the valley to the east corner of the 
northern stone enclosure wall of the pyramid. The so-called valley temple, which was 
discovered in 1951-2, contrasts strongly not only with the mortuary temple of this 
complex but also with all the other known valley buildings of the Old Kingdom. Perhaps 
its function has not yet been properly recognized. Two monumental stelae of the same 
kind as those at the mortuary temple and the subsidiary pyramid were erected outside the 

Entries A-Z 249 

front wall of the forecourt, one at each end, facing south. Colossal statues of the king 
were attached to niches at the back of some — and possibly all — of six shrines in the 
temple. Painted reliefs must have decorated the walls of many of the rooms of this 

See also 

Dahshur, the Northern Stone Pyramid; Lepsius, Carl Richard; Meydum; Old Kingdom, 
overview; Saqqara, pyramids of the 3rd Dynasty; Seila/Silah 

Further reading 

Fakhry, A. 1959, 1961. The Monuments ofSeneferu at Dahshur I, II (1 & 2). Cairo. 
Maragioglio, V., and C.Rinaldi. 1964. L'Architettura delle Piramidi Menfite 3: 54-123. Rapallo. 
Porter, B., and R.L.B.Moss, revised by J.Malek. 1974. Topographical Bibliography of Ancient 
Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings 3: Memphis, 877-8. Oxford. 


Dahshur, Middle Kingdom pyramids 

The cemetery of Dahshur extends for circa 3km north-south on the Western Desert 
plateau about 40km south of Cairo and 1km west of the modern village of Menshiet 
Dahshur (29°48' N, 31°14' E). Up to ten pyramid complexes have been identified at 
Dahshur, which was one of the favored cemetery sites of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. 
Besides the Bent Pyramid and the Northern Stone Pyramid of King Seneferu, the 
necropolis also includes the 12th Dynasty pyramid complexes of Amenemhat II, Senusret 
III and Amenemhat III. In addition, several small pyramidal structures which probably 
date to the 13th Dynasty are found in a stretch of the desert plateau at the southern end of 
the cemetery. 

All three of the 12th Dynasty pyramid complexes were excavated in 1894-5 by 
Jacques de Morgan, who not only succeeded in entering the burial chambers, but was also 
fortunate to find some of the finest jewelry of the period in tombs of princesses located in 
the western court of the complex of Amenemhat II (Iti and Khnemt, Itiwert), and north of 
the pyramid of Senusret III (Sithathor, Mereret). In addition, in the northern court of the 
pyramid complex of Amenemhat III he found the more or less intact tombs of the 13th 
Dynasty King Awibre Hor and Princess Nebhotepti-khred. 

After de Morgan, no systematic excavations of the Middle Kingdom pyramids were 
carried out until 1976, when the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) began working 
at the pyramid complex of Amenemhat III. This fieldwork, which continued until 1983, 
demonstrated that de Morgan's excavations were far from exhaustive. In 1990 the 
Metropolitan Museum of Art began excavating at the pyramid complex of Senusret III. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 250 

Pyramid complex of Amenemhat II 

This pyramid complex was originally surrounded by a mudbrick wall, circa 93><225m, 
which enclosed a court oriented east-west. In the center of its eastern wall was the 
entrance to a causeway, which led to the valley temple (unexcavated) at the edge of the 
cultivation. The greater part of the western half of the court was occupied by the pyramid, 
which has been entirely removed. Like the pyramid of Senusret I, it consisted of a stone 
core with radial retaining walls and was covered with a casing of Tura limestone. 

The corridor leading to the burial chamber opened from the north side of the pyramid. 
Two granite slabs (portcullises) built into the horizontal passage at the lower end of the 
corridor blocked the entrance into the small burial chamber, where a quartzite 
sarcophagus was found sunk into the floor along the western wall. A narrow shaft in the 
floor gives access to another chamber beneath the horizontal passage. Its purpose is not 
known, but it may have been intended for another burial. 

The temple on the east side of the pyramid, as well as two buildings of unknown 
purpose at the eastern end of the court, are completely destroyed. 

Pyramid complex of Senusret III 

Senusret III did not follow the building traditions of his predecessors earlier in the 12th 
Dynasty, but adopted a new plan for his pyramid, which shows the strong influence of 
Zoser's Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara. The most obvious borrowed features are the 
north-south orientation of the precinct, its paneled enclosure wall with the entrance near 
the southeast corner, and the position of the pyramid to the north of the center of the 
complex. The rounded door jambs in the burial apartment also reflect traditions of the 3rd 
Dynasty, and the sarcophagus is carved with paneled decorations resembling the 
enclosure wall of the Step Pyramid complex. 

The whole complex, which measures 192 x299m, is divided into three courts. A 
narrow court of unknown purpose in the north may be compared to the northern 
magazine of Zoser's complex. The pyramid was in the central court, with a small 
mortuary temple on its eastern side and a northern chapel. Nine mastaba-like buildings 
surrounded the pyramid to the south, east and north. The southern court is divided by a 
mudbrick wall into western and eastern parts. The western part was accessible through a 
doorway in the southern enclosure wall. A row of shafts are found there but without any 
evidence of a building. Recent excavations in the larger eastern part did not produce the 
long expected evidence of a "southern tomb" (as in Zoser's Step Pyramid), but instead 
revealed the foundations of a temple-like building. Fragments of its relief decoration, as 
well as many statue fragments, suggest its use for the cult of the royal statues. A door in 
the eastern enclosure wall gave access to the southeastern court from the causeway 
leading up from the valley temple, which has not been located. The pavement of the 
causeway seems to have continued into the court and through the eastern end of the 
temple-like building, where it turned north and continued into the mortuary temple. 

The pyramid, which originally measured 105m at the base and was about 60m high, 
occupied the greater part of the central court. It consisted of a mudbrick core which was 
covered by a casing of fine white Tura limestone. On its northern side stood a small 

Entries A-Z 251 

northern chapel, although the entrance to the burial chambers was shifted to the western 
court. Like the northern chapel, the remains of the mortuary temple on the eastern side 
have been entirely removed. Apart from the foundations, which suggest a building of 
circa 20m square, only a few fragments of the temple architecture and relief decoration 
were found. The dimensions of the foundations, however, indicate that the pyramid 
temple differed considerably from the earlier examples and probably had been reduced to 
an offering chapel. 

The arrangement of the burial apartment followed the traditional plan of the Old 
Kingdom, with antechamber, serdab (statue chamber) and burial chamber. Along the 
western wall of the burial chamber, with its curved ceiling, is a granite sarcophagus. In 
the southern wall a niche was provided to hold the canopic chest (for the preserved 

Close to the northeast corner of the pyramid is a shaft which leads to a group of twelve 
tombs built for female members of the royal family. In two of these tombs de Morgan 
found some extraordinary pieces of jewelry, now in the Cairo Museum. 

Pyramid complex of Amenemhat III 

Amenemhat Ill's pyramid complex at Dahshur was built during the first half of his reign. 
Yet before the interior rooms were finished, the pyramid was abandoned after a settling 
process caused considerable damage to the corridors and chambers. Subsequently, 
Amenemhat III built a new pyramid complex at Hawara, where he was buried. 

With its east-west orientation, Amenemhat Ill's pyramid complex at Dahshur follows 
the plan of the royal monuments before Senusret III. At the edge of the desert, the 
remains of a valley temple have been excavated. From there a long causeway led up to 
the mortuary temple, which is entirely destroyed. South of the causeway the foundations 
of a palace-like building, which was probably used during the construction of the 
pyramid, were found. Beyond its northern wall the causeway was flanked by houses of 

The pyramid was built of mudbricks and covered by a casing of Tura limestone. It 
measures 105m at the base line and was originally 75m high. Its capstone of black basalt 
was found in the debris to the east of the pyramid. Apart from the corridors and chambers 
intended for the burial of the king, the pyramid design also included a similar but smaller 
arrangement of rooms for the interment of two queens, one of whom was named Aat. 
Both apartments were connected by a long corridor. A third arrangement of corridors and 
small chambers or niches seems to have been planned for the king's ka burial. The 
entrance to the royal burial apartments was found near the southern end of the east side of 
the pyramid. A separate entrance on the west side gave access to the burial chambers of 
the two queens. Each burial chamber contains a granite sarcophagus. Two of them 
(belonging to the king and Queen Aat) are elaborately carved with a paneled decoration 
imitating the enclosure wall of the Step Pyramid complex. 

The pyramid was surrounded by two mudbrick enclosures; the inner one was paneled. 
In the northern outer court, ten shafts were excavated by de Morgan. These were 
probably intended for members of the royal family, but were not used. Only in the two 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 252 

easternmost shafts did de Morgan find the burials of King Awibre Hor (13th Dynasty) 
and Princess Nebhotepti-khred. 

Pyramids of the 13th Dynasty 

Several additional small pyramidal structures are known from the Dahshur region, but 
most of them have never been excavated. They all seem to have belonged to ephemeral 
kings of the 13th Dynasty, who probably did not even live long enough to see their 
funerary complexes finished. 

See also 

Dahshur, the Bent Pyramid; Dahshur, the Northern Stone Pyramid; Hawara; el-Lisht; 
Middle Kingdom, overview; Saqqara, pyramids of the 3rd Dynasty; Second Intermediate 
Period, overview 

Further reading 

Arnold, D. 1987. Der Pyramidenbezirk des Konigs Amenemhet III. In Dahschur 1: Die Pyramide. 

. 1994. Lexikon der dgyptischen Baukunst. Zurich. 

Morgan, 1895. Fouilles a Dahchour. Mai-juin 1894. Vienna. 

1903. Fouilles a Dahchour. 1894-1895. Vienna. 


Dahshur, the Northern Stone Pyramid 

The Northern Stone Pyramid is one of two pyramids at Dahshur (29°48' N, 31°14' E) 
built by Seneferu, the first king of the 4th Dynasty. At its base the pyramid is 220m 
square, and its original height was 104m. Its angle of incline is 43°22'. Like the southern 
pyramid built by Seneferu at this site (known as the "Bent Pyramid"), the Northern Stone 
Pyramid (also known as the Red Pyramid) bore the name "Seneferu Gleams," but without 
the adjective "Southern." 

Using a quadrant, Robert Wood, James Dawkins and Giovanni Borra were the first 
travelers to survey this pyramid, both internally and externally, in November 1750. They 
were, however, unable to reach the burial chamber because its entrance was high above 
the floor level of the antechamber, and there was nothing to which they could attach their 
rope ladder. J.S.Perring, who went to Dahshur in September 1839, was able to survey the 
whole pyramid, and in 1843 Richard Lepsius gave it the catalog number XLIX. In 1980 
the German Institute of Archaeology (DAI) in Cairo, under the direction of Rainer 

Entries A-Z 253 

Stadelmann, began the exploration of the whole pyramid complex. Their discoveries 
include a foundation block at the northwest corner of the pyramid, dated in the year of the 
15th census of cattle in Seneferu's reign (perhaps his twenty-ninth year) as the year in 
which work on the pyramid began. Also found by the Germans were the capstone of the 
pyramid and pieces of wall reliefs from the mortuary temple. 

From the entrance on the north face, 3.8m east of the center and about 28.55m above 
ground level, a corridor, 1.04m wide and 1.16m high, slopes down at an angle of about 
27°56' for 62.63m to ground level, where it becomes horizontal for 7.43m. Immediately 
beyond this are two chambers almost in line. Both chambers are 12.31m high and 3.65m 
wide, and have almost the same length (8.37m, 8.34m). Each chamber has a corbel roof 
with eleven overlapping courses on the east and west sides. The burial chamber, oriented 
with its main axis east-west, is approached through a passage with its entrance in the 
south wall of the second chamber at a height of 7.8m above the floor of the chamber. Its 
length is 8.35m and its width is 4.18m. The roof of the burial chamber is corbelled on the 
north and south sides. 

In 1950 incomplete remains of a male skeleton were found in the burial chamber and 
the possibility that they are the remains of Seneferu cannot be dismissed, if only because 
discoveries at Meydum show that corpses at this time were buried with the flesh 
removed. Moreover, this pyramid is likely to have been his tomb because it was almost 
certainly the last of Seneferu's three pyramids to be built. The first was the Meydum 
pyramid in its stepped forms, and the second was the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur. Dated 
blocks from the true pyramid at Meydum record the 13th, 18th and possibly the 23rd 
censuses of cattle, and blocks in the Dahshur were dated in the time of the 15th census 
and later. Work was thus progressing concurrently on the final forms of the Meydum 
pyramid and the Dahshur pyramids, both of which were built with blocks laid in flat 

Each of the Dahshur pyramids had its own group of priests, living in separate 
communities but having a close administrative relationship. In the 5th Dynasty a priest 
named Duare, whose tomb lay near the Bent Pyramid, held, among other high offices, the 
position of "Overseer of the Two Pyramids of Seneferu." A stela found in 1905 in the 
vicinity of this pyramid preserves a decree of Pepi I of the 6th Dynasty dating to the 
twenty-first year of his reign. This decree grants immunity from certain duties and taxes 
to the priest of the "Two Pyramids [named] 'Seneferu Gleams'." 

See also 

Dahshur, the Bent Pyramid; Dahshur, Middle Kingdom pyramids; Lepsius, Carl Richard; 
Meydum; Middle Kingdom, overview; Old Kingdom, overview 

Further reading 

Edwards, I.E.S. 1991. The Pyramids of Egypt, 89-97. Harmondsworth. 

Maragioglio, V., and C.Rinaldi. 1964. L'Architettura delle Piramidi Menfite 3: 124-45. Rapallo. 
Porter, B., and R.L.B.Moss, revised by J. Malek. 1974. Topographical Bibliography of Ancient 
Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings 3: Memphis, 876. Oxford. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 254 
Stadelmann, R. 1985. Die agyptischen Pyramiden, 100-6. Mainz. 


Dakhla Oasis, Balat 

The village of Balat (25°34' N, 29° 16' E), built at the eastern entrance to the Dakhla 
Oasis, is situated at the junction of two caravan routes. The desert track of Darb el-Tawil 
coming from Manfalut, to the north of Assyut, connects there with the Darb el-Ghabari. 
This second track connected Dakhla with Kharga Oasis, leading to the great Darb el- 
Arbain route, which took the caravans south to Darfur and the Kordofan. The village of 
Balat has given its name to an archaeological concession of about 700ha, joining together 
the urban settlement (40ha) at Ain Asil, and a cemetery at Qila' el-Dabba, ranging 
chronologically from the Old Kingdom to the Second Intermediate Period, with a late 
reoccupation in the Roman Period. The importance of this site is found in the exceptional 
situation of an Egyptian settlement far from the Nile Valley, and in the fact that this 
concession offers the unique opportunity to study an urban system of the Old Kingdom in 

The urban remains of Ain Asil were uncovered during the winter of 1947, as a result 
of strong sandstorms. The credit for this discovery belongs to Ahmed Fakhry, who 
immediately was able to draw a correlation between the site and the necropolis 1.5km 
away, at Qila' el-Dabba. Some brief archaeological borings, between 1968 and 1970, 
preceded two excavations in 1971 and 1972. The excavation concession to the site was 
taken over by the Institut francais d'archeologie orientale (IFAO) in Cairo; since 1977, 
this institution has carried out annual investigations in the oasis. 

At Ain Asil, the remains of three phases of the urban settlement have been 
distinguished, dating between the late 5th/early 6th Dynasties and the First Intermediate 
Period. Excavation in the southern part of the site revealed the presence of four pottery 
workshops. Subsequently, the extension of these investigations led to the clearing of an 
administrative district, perhaps including the governorate of the oasis. The funerary 
chapels of three governors of the oasis were located. Each has the same basic plan. A 
wooden porch with two columns leading from a common courtyard formed the entrance. 
Beyond this, another courtyard led to a naos flanked by two oblong rooms. A stela was 
discovered in situ in the central building. It contains a copy of a royal decree of Pepi II, 
which mentions the establishment of a "dwelling of vital strength" (pWf-ftJ) explicitly 
confirming the purpose of these constructions, which were surrounded by bakeries. To 
the east of the chapels was a large administrative complex, built around a courtyard with 
a porch. It contained a batch of clay tablets inscribed in hieratic, along with fragments of 
a jar, inscribed with the name of Medunefer, Governor of the Oasis in the reign of Pepi II. 
The mastaba (mudbrick tomb) of this dignitary has been located in the necropolis. 

At Qila' el-Dabba, the Old Kingdom cemetery includes a field of mastabas 
surrounded by a large number of smaller secondary burials. The excavation of a sample 
of these tombs dating to the 6th Dynasty and the First Intermediate Period showed three 
different types of substructure plans: 

Entries A-Z 255 

1 The simplest burial places are oval subterranean chambers, without any structure. These 

tombs can be entered by a flight of stairs or a shaft, blocked after the interment. 

2 Other burials are in tombs dug into the rock and covered by mudbrick vaults, to which 

access is provided by a descending staircase. 

3 In other places the burial chamber, dug in a trench, takes on the shape of a rectangular 

room, covered by a Nubian vault topped by rows of arched mudbricks. Access is 
possible by a descending ramp or a shaft. 

In their superstructure, the first two types of tombs sometimes have preserved signs of a 
small enclosure, back to back with a large mudbrick structure, intended to shelter a 
funeral stela. The third tomb type, usually having a courtyard with its limits defined by 
low walls, includes a vaulted chapel built inside a small mudbrick mastaba. The 
deceased, laid out either north-south or west-east in the small burials, may be lying on or 
wrapped in mats or put in a wooden coffin. In the 6th Dynasty the funeral equipment 
consisted of alabaster per fume vases, toilet instruments (copper razors and mirrors), tools 
(adze blades), ornaments and stamp seals. The burials of the First Intermediate Period 
usually just show a few provisions put in ceramic jars. 

Four mastabas for the Governors of the Oasis (M^ vek.ll) were known to Ahmed 
Fakhry; later work by the IFAO has revealed two more. These funerary establishments, 
numbered I to V from south to north in the necropolis, date to the 6th Dynasty from the 
reigns of Pepi I and Pepi II. The sequence of these mastabas is as follows: 

Kom (mound) of Mastaba I (really two tombs): 

a mastaba of Decheru (prior to the reign of Pepi I?) 
b mastaba of Ima-Pepi/Ima-Meryre (reign of Pepi I) 

Mastaba II: mastaba of Ima-Pepi II Mastaba IV: mastaba of Khentikaupepi 
(reign of Pepi II) (6th Dynasty) 

Mastaba III: mastaba of Khentika Mastaba V: mastaba of Medunefer 
(reign of Pepi II) (reign of Pepi II) 

In superstructure, these dwellings have a quadrilateral shape, defined by mudbrick 
precinct walls. This surface area is divided into two open courtyards, next to the 
mudbrick superstructure. The enclosure gate leads into a forecourt, which is usually used 
for small secondary burial places. An interior courtyard provided space for rituals with 
obelisk-stelae, offering basins and funeral stelae. The chapels of the mastaba can be 
recognized by their traditional niched palace facade decoration. 

Excavation of four of these mastabas (lb, II, III and V) revealed important differences 
in construction. Two distinct architectural programs are attested; the building technique 
of the substructures varies from a complex with several burial chambers (type I) to a 
single sepulcher (type II). In the first case (type I, mastabas lb and III), the substructures 
were entirely built in the open air by carrying out a vast excavation; at the bottom, 
retaining walls were built to create the structure. The burial 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 256 

Figure 21 Qila' el-Dabba, Balat, 
Dakhla Oasis: mastaba tomb of Ima- 
Pepi I, courtyard 

chamber and access to it were built inside the space confined by this protective wall. 
Once these foundation works were completed, earth mounds covered these substructures. 
From then on, access was only through the burial shafts. The second building technique 
(type II, mastabas II and V) used a more economical method requiring less displacement 
of the soil. One or even two rectangular shafts were dug in the clay soil. These shafts 
were linked to each other by tunnels at their lowest level. The tomb chamber, with one 
antechamber and two storerooms, was then built in stone and mudbrick within these 

The dimensions and fittings of Old Kingdom mastabas generally diminish between 
the reigns of Pepi I and Pepi II. Such is the case at Balat as well, notably in comparing 
the tombs of Ima-Pepi I (Pepi I) and Medunefer (Pepi II). The absence of a serdab (statue 
chamber) in the Balat tombs follows the practice of Old Kingdom private tombs after the 
second half of the 6th Dynasty. Furthermore, the evidence of an onomastic alternation 
between Ima-Pepi and Ima-Meryre points to a contemporary of Pepi I as the owner of 
mastaba lb. The mention of the first jubilee (heb-sed) of Neferkare (one of the names of 
Pepi II) on an alabaster vase from Medunefer' s tomb places mastaba V in the reign of 
Pepi II. A limestone group statue of Ima-Pepi I and his wife Lady Isut was deposited in 
the burial chamber of their tomb. Also notable is the in situ discovery of one of the oldest 
renderings of the Coffin Texts (aside from Gardiner's Papyrus IV) appearing on the coffin 
of Governor Medunefer, a contemporary of Pepi II. One should also mention the 
polychrome funeral scenes, painted on the walls of Khentika's burial chamber (Mastaba 
III), and the variety of the stone vessels from Ima-Pepi IPs mastaba (Mastaba II). 

Entries A-Z 257 

Overall, the above data indicate that Balat was an important Old Kingdom 
administrative site. This evidence makes it possible to estimate the intensity of the 
exchange between the 

Figure 22 Qila' el-Dabba, Balat, 
Dakhla Oasis: mastaba tomb of Ima- 
Pepi I, substructures 

central government in Memphis and a remote administrative district such as Dakhla. It is 
evident not only that such a situation survived the hazards of the First Intermediate 
Period, but that Balat existed as the center of an administrative district through the 
Middle Kingdom and into the Second Intermediate Period. Evidence of this has been 
found in the excavations undertaken in the southern part of the necropolis, with the 
discovery of a decorated tomb inscribed from the period of the Intef nomarchs of Thebes. 

See also 

Memphite private tombs of the Old Kingdom; Old Kingdom provincial tombs 

Further reading 

Minault-Gout, A., and P.Deleuze. 1992. Balat II. he mastaba d'Ima-Pepi (Fouilles de l'IFAO 32). 

Pantalacci, L. 1985. Un decret de Pepi II en faveur des gouverneurs de l'oasis de Dakhla. BIFAO 

. 1989. Les chapelles des gouverneurs de l'oasis et leurs dependances. BSFE 114: 64-82. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 258 

Soukiassian, G., M.Wuttmann and D.Schaad. 1990. La ville d'Ayn Asil a Dakhla: Etat des 

recherches. BIFAO 90:347-58. 
Valloggia, M. 1986. Balat I. Le mastaba de Medou-Nefer (Fouilles de l'IFAO 31, 1-2). Cairo. 
. 1998. Balat IV. Le monument funeraire d'Ima-Pepy/Ima-Meryre (Fouilles de l'IFAO 38, 1- 

2). Cairo 


Dakhla Oasis, Dynastic and Roman sites 

The Dakhla Oasis is the largest of Egypt's great western oases. The present Oasis basin, 
some 75km east-west and a maximum of 25km north-south, has been continuously 
inhabited throughout the historical period. The area lies some 600km southwest of Cairo 
and is centered on 25°30' N and 29°00' E. The Oasis floor is a rich clay plain, lacustrine 
in origin, interrupted in places by outcrops of the Nubia sandstone formation. Abrupt 
northern and eastern boundaries are formed by a Cretaceous limestone escarpment, up to 
500m high. As of 1992, there was an expanding population of 70,000 living in small 
communities. The capital, Mut, is centrally situated at the southernmost point of the 
Oasis. The economic foundation of the Dakhla Oasis community is in agriculture; there 
are no mineral or other resources. The climate is hyperarid and all agricultural and 
domestic water needs are supplied by artesian pressure from subterranean aquefers 
through springs and wells. 

The Dakhla Oasis first came into modern European knowledge with the arrival of the 
British explorer Sir Archibald Edmondstone in 1819. The first extensive description of 
the archaeological remains in Dakhla was made by H.E.Winlock of New York's 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, from a journey made there in 1908, when he noted and 
recorded the standing ruins of the Oasis. Little further notice was taken of the region until 
the late 1960s, when Dr Ahmed Fakhry discovered the large Old Kingdom town and 
mastaba tombs in the vicinity of Balat. Since 1977, the Institut francais d'archeologie 
orientale has been engaged in the major excavations of the Balat complex. Since 1978, 
the Dakhleh Oasis Project has been making a regional study of the entire Oasis as a 
microcosm of eastern Saharan cultural and environmental evolution since the mid- 

The earliest indications of ancient Egyptians having been in contact with the Dakhla 
Oasis region are a few finds of Early Dynastic period ceramics, some in isolation, some 
from Sheikh Muftah sites. The occurrences do not, however, really indicate more than 
just a casual or occasional contact. It is not until late in the Old Kingdom that there is 
evidence of major activity by the pharaonic Egyptians in the Oasis. 

At the Oasis entry point of the direct route from the Nile, in the vicinity of present-day 
Balat, there is a large settlement site, Ain Asil, which dates to the late Old Kingdom and 
the First Intermediate Period. Also in the vicinity are extensive burial grounds which 
include five substantial mastaba tombs of the Egyptian governors of the oasis during the 
reigns of Pepi II and his immediate predecessors. 

Entries A-Z 259 

The Ain Asil town was not, however, the only settlement of the period in the Dakhla 
Oasis. There are archaeological traces and eroded remains of some twenty other Old 
Kingdom sites scattered across the Oasis. There is a concentration of these sites in 
western Dakhla, in the vicinity of el-Qasr. Several cemeteries attest to the strength of the 
Egyptian cultural content of the settlements, while habitation sites, albeit terribly eroded, 
show the settled and essentially domestic nature of the occupation. One of the settlements 
in western Dakhla is nearly as extensive in area as Ain Asil, although not so well 
preserved. It is important because it interfingers with a site of the Sheikh Muftah culture 
and is indicative of the relationship between the indigenous Dakhlans and the migrant 
pharaonic Egyptians. Apparently, this was a peaceful relationship with evidence for trade 
in lithic tools and ceramics. That there was close and frequent contact with the Nile 
Valley can be seen in a variety of small objects that were imported from the Nile Valley, 
but might best be exemplified by the ceramics of the period in the Oasis. The shapes and 
manufacturing technology allow them to be precisely placed with the range of ceramics 
from the Nile Valley sites, while clay analysis shows that all were locally manufactured 
in the Dakhla Oasis. This is supported by the discovery of a number of sites where 
pottery kilns are present. 

The evidence is not strong for the remaining two millennia of pharaonic history in the 
Dakhla Oasis, although it does seem that there was always some Egyptian population 
there. There are a number of small sites, variously dated, that give support to this; but the 
best information comes from sites at 'Ein Tirghi, a cemetery with dated material from the 
Second Intermediate Period onward, and from the cemeteries at Ain Asil, which seem to 
include material from the Old Kingdom down into the 18th Dynasty. Mut el-Kharab is a 
large temple enclosure, apparently a cult center of Seth, where potsherds from virtually 
all major periods, from the Old Kingdom down to the Byzantine, have been recovered 
from surface inspection. The site at Mut is merely the religious center of what must have 
been the most extensive town in the ancient Oasis, but which has been lost under the 
modern settlement. Inscriptional evidence from stelae gives datings of the 22nd and 25th 
Dynasties. Although the extensive ruins on the surface are primarily Roman in date, 
Egyptian Antiquities Organization excavations have recently uncovered massive walls of 
an earlier period. 

The evidence from the Oasis is vital to our understanding of its function within the 
Egyptian sphere. Apart from very occasional references to administration of the oases, 
there is virtually no information from the Nile Valley. From the Oasis itself there are 
stelae from the temple at Mut, and also administrative documents from Ain Asil that 
show that the community was officially seen as part of "Egypt." Certainly, there was 
always an Egyptian population in the Oasis, but perhaps it was an area of banishment, or 
served some other similar kind of function for the rulers in the Nile Valley. 

It is only from the decades just before the birth of Christ that the Dakhla Oasis 
becomes fully occupied. From the first five centuries AD there are almost 250 sites: 
isolated farmsteads, three large towns, major irrigation works, industrial sites, over 
twenty temples, cemeteries and all the range of settlement that one might expect to see in 
a self-sufficient agricultural community. With the increase in economic importance of 
Egypt within the Roman world, Dakhla must have been seen as a potentially rich source 
of produce and migration of farmers was encouraged. It seems that finally whatever 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 260 

available farmland was present was actually utilized and the Dakhla population produced 
more than its subsistence requirements. 

Texts, recovered in the excavations at Kellis, together with organic finds in the debris 
of farmhouses and houses, as well as remnants on the surface in various places across the 
Oasis, give us a clear picture of the agriculture of the period. Cereals were a major crop, 
of course, but there was also oil and wine production, and a variety of vegetables and 
herbs, fruits, including figs, dates, peaches and pomegranates, and honey all were being 
produced. Domestic animals included pigeons, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, 
donkeys, camels and dogs. In the region of Deir el-Haggar there are massive aqueducts 
leading northwards out of spring mounds toward field system which closely resemble 
those still in use in the Oasis. A scene in the tomb of Pady-Osiris at el-Muzzawaka shows 
some of the products of the Oasis, including dates, barley, grapes, olives, dom-palm nuts 
and flowers. Housing for migrant farmers was constructed to a set pattern: two vaulted 
rooms at ground level and a pigeon loft above, all enclosed within a surrounding wall. 
These "colombarium" farmhouses occur singly and in villages of up to half a dozen. 
There are three large towns of the period in the Oasis: Trimithis, now called Amheida, 
Mouthis, the capital, now called Mut, and Kellis, now called Ismant el-Kharab. 

Two main types of temple were built during the Graeco-Roman period in the Oasis. 
The first is of mudbrick construction and consists of three or four axially placed rooms, 
and is generally only about 25m in length. Entered through a pylon at the east end, the 
rooms are successively smaller, ending in the sanctuary, where there is a brick altar. 
None of these temples preserves any decoration intact, although one, which has been 
badly ruined, bears a considerable number of fragments of painted plaster in the debris. 
The second type of temple, of which there are at least seven, is built of local sandstone 
and generally bears carved decoration. Again, these temples are not large, being less than 
30m long. Arranged axially, they have a more complicated architectural plan, with side 
chambers, stairways to roof areas, temenos enclosure walls and the usual pharaonic 
temple appearance. Decoration is carved relief, which was originally painted in the 
normal fashion. The attribution of some of these temples is more secure than others. That 
at Deir el-Haggar is dedicated to the Theban deities, Amen, Khonsu and Mut, and was 
built during the second half of the first century AD. There is a temple dedicated to Thoth 
of Hermopolis at Trimithis. The major shrine of Seth at Mouthis was probably built on 
the site of an earlier, pharaonic temple. At Kellis the main temple is dedicated principally 
to Tutu and there is a smaller shrine dedicated to Neith and Tapsais. The easternmost one 
is at 'Ein Birbiyeh, where the building decoration can be dated to the reigns of Augustus 
and Hadrian, and the dedication is to Amen-Nakht and his consort, Hathor. 

The decline of this high point in the Dakhla Oasis coincides with a natural 
phenomenon and historical trends in the Roman world. Several sites across the Oasis 
were apparently abandoned as the result of the incursion of heavy sanding conditions, 
which may in turn have been the result of environmental change elsewhere. Both the 
temples at Deir el-Haggar and 'Ein Birbiyeh were filled with sand before any deliberate 
damage was done to them; in other words, while they were probably still functioning as 
temples. Ismant el-Kharab, a large town, is full of domestic buildings which were 
abandoned as the result of their filling up with wind-blown sand. The sand of the Western 
Desert is inexorable and, where present, will fill wells and cover fields, removing at a 
stroke the livelihood of the inhabitants. The date for this geological event was probably 

Entries A-Z 261 

early in the fifth century AD. Also at the beginning of the fifth century, the Roman 
Empire was splitting into its eastern and western parts and one consequence of this was a 
weakening of the solidarity of that great economic unit. Some of the population moved 
back to the Nile Valley, where they had always maintained strong ties; others remained 
and eked a subsistence living out of the harsh climate as best they were able. It took 
several centuries to rebuild the Oasis economy to the strength it had during the first four 
centuries AD. 

See also 

Kharga Oasis, Late period and Graeco-Roman sites 

Further reading 

Giddy, L.L. 1987. Egyptian Oases. Warminister. 

Mills, A.J. 1985. The Dakhleh Oasis Project. In Melanges Gamal Eddin Mokhtar (BdE 97/2): 125- 

34. Cairo. 
Osing, J., et al. 1982. Denkmdler der Oase Dachla aus dem Nachlass von Ahmed Fakhry. Mainz. 
Wagner, G. 1987. Les Oasis d'Egypte. Cairo. 


Dakhla Oasis, Ismant el-Kharab 

The Romano-Byzantine town site of Ismant el-Kharab (Ismant "the Ruined," or "Kellis" 
in Greek) in the Dakhla Oasis lies 2.5km east of the modern village of Ismant (25°32' N, 
29°04' E). The well-preserved mudbrick ruins drew the site to the attention of early 
travelers in the nineteenth century and archaeologists in the twentieth century. None left 
more than short descriptions of certain structures, although Herbert Winlock, who visited 
the site in 1908, took valuable photographs of painted reliefs that are now destroyed. 

In 1981 the study of the site by the Dakhleh Oasis Project commenced. A detailed plan 
of the surface remains has been prepared and excavations began in 1986. The site appears 
to have been occupied only during the first-fourth centuries AD. 

The ancient town is built upon a natural terrace of Nubian clay, which stands 4-6m 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 262 





Figure 23 Plan of excavated remains at 
Ismant el-Kharab, Dakhla Oasis 

above the floors of two wadis on its northwest and southeast, and covers an area 
approximately 1050x650m. The area is clearly defined by the remains of mudbrick 
buildings and a cover of artifacts, especially potsherds. A dense scatter of chert 
containing some tools of the Middle Paleolithic surrounds the site, but there is no 
evidence of occupation during that period. 

The earliest structure is the Main Temple, situated within a large enclosure in the 
western part of the site. A processional route leads through the enclosure to the temple 
temenos, which is entered through two undecorated stone gateways on its east, and then 
along a mudbrick colonnade to a portico and the temple itself. This small sandstone 
structure, which is poorly preserved, was dedicated to the protective deity Tutu (in Greek, 
Tithoes), son of the goddess Neith. It is the only surviving temple dedicated to this god. 
A double doorway, originally decorated with offering scenes, gives access to a small 
courtyard and to the temple, which comprises three rooms and a two-roomed contra- 
temple at the rear. A painted and gilded cult relief representing Tutu and a goddess was 
the focal point of either the main sanctuary or the contra-temple. The temple may have 
been begun during the first century AD, as an inscription of the Roman emperor Nero 
(AD 54-138) has been found there, as have fragments of demotic papyri, possibly also of 
that period. It appears to have been extended and decorated from the reigns of Hadrian 
(AD 117-38) to Pertinax (AD 193). Vestiges of temple furnishings include fragments of 
small and large anthropomorphic sculptures in stone and plaster, some of which attest to 

Entries A-Z 263 

figures of Isis and Serapis, stone altars and pieces from elaborately decorated, gilded and 
painted wooden shrines. 

Within the temenos are also four mudbrick shrines; two of these flank the temple and 
two flank the main east gate. The two-roomed shrine to the south of the Main Temple, 
Shrine I, is larger than the temple and originally stood to 5m in height. In its inner room 
elaborate painted reliefs are preserved on the walls and on the remains of the barrel- 
vaulted roof; these provide evidence of its use as a mammisi (house of births). A classical 
dado of alternately colored panels, with floral sprays and birds at the center, was topped 
by four registers in pharaonic style depicting priests and gods in procession before Tutu, 
who is accompanied by the goddesses Neith and Tapshay. The latter is described as 
"Mistress of the City." These two goddesses were also worshipped in a small sandstone 
temple located at the extreme west of the site, set within its own enclosure, which is 
probably to be ascribed the same date as the Main Temple. Access to this temple, the 
West Temple, from the Main Temple, was gained via a stone gateway in the rear of the 
temenos wall. In addition to the classical paintings in Shrine I, there are others on the 
walls of the court to the east of the Main Temple and in each of the other three mudbrick 
structures. One room of the structure on the south of the gateway has three layers of 
plaster; the latest one preserves an elaborate painted coffer motif with birds and fruit, and 
the earliest has black ink graffiti representing Tutu, Seth, Bes and a winged vulture. 

The temple of Tutu appears to have continued in use throughout the life of the city, 
with additions and modifications to its plan. The portico, with its baked-brick columns 
fronted by sandstone plinths, two bearing dedicatory inscriptions in Greek, was probably 
added in the third century AD. Three large enclosures were added to the north of the 
temple enclosure, possibly containing administrative buildings and storage facilities, 
though at what date is unknown. In the most northerly are the remains of a small church 
adjacent to the remains of two monumental, classical-style tombs. The architecture of the 
latter is unique within Egypt and is paralleled only by monuments in Libya; they 
resemble buildings depicted on first century BC coins from North Africa and second 
century AD Roman coins from Alexandria. One of the tombs contained the remains of 
eleven burials with grave goods consisting of pottery, glass, a basket and a bed, and 
numerous floral bouquets. Five gold rings were also found. The burials may be ascribed 
to the third century AD, although the tombs themselves are earlier. The small church and 
a seven-roomed building immediately to its south date to the fourth century AD. 

Three large building complexes on a north-south alignment are the main feature of the 
northern part of the site, Area B. The south complex contains 216 rooms, courts and 
corridors, some preserved to second floor level. Several of the rooms preserve traces of 
polychrome wall paintings in classical style. Excavation has revealed part of a large 
peristyle court against the south wall of this structure, which stood some 5m in height. Its 
columns of baked brick were plastered and painted and the lower 2m of the walls 
received classical painted decoration of panel motifs separated by pilasters. The ceiling 
was originally decorated with a variety of coffer designs which incorporated figurative 
motifs. Jar sealing dockets inscribed in Greek from the fill in the foundations of the room 
indicate a date for its construction at the latest in the second century AD. There is 
evidence of four major phases of use. Constructed as a formal hall within what was 
probably the center of administration, it was eventually used for domestic purposes, 
including the stabling of animals, during the fourth century AD. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 264 

Immediately to the north is an agglutinative series of buildings, which may have been 
for domestic use, and to their north is a complex of a more formal nature. Here the 
buildings are of differing size and complexity. One comprises a court surrounded by ten 
rooms which are lime-plastered and several bear polychrome geometric and floral motifs. 
There are also three buildings with pigeon lofts. 

To the west of Area B is a line of mausolea which face east. They consist of an 
entrance chamber leading to one or more inner rooms, all of which were vaulted. Several 
also have porticos. The two on the south are the largest and most elaborate, with three 
inner chambers (the central one is stone lined) and white-plastered exteriors ornamented 
with pilasters and niches. The central rear chamber of the southernmost mausoleum once 
bore painted funerary scenes, which were photographed by Winlock but are now 
destroyed. This monument was cleared by Bernard Moritz in 1900. A similar group of 
mausolea lies to the south of the site. Both groups appear to have been family vaults. 
Approximately 0.5km to the northwest of the site are a series of low hills which contain 
an extensive cemetery. These have yielded multiple burials in single-chamber tombs, a 
few of which have painted and gilded cartonnage mummy cases; grave goods are rare. 
These burials date to the first-second centuries AD. On the southeast of the site there is 
another cemetery with single burials in pit graves, some with mudbrick superstructures. 
They are oriented east-west; grave goods are largely absent. This cemetery seems to have 
been in use during the third-fourth centuries AD. 

The east and central parts of the site are residential sectors. Ceramics on the surface of 
the former, Area C, indicate that it may have been occupied from the second century AD 
onward. The survey of the latter, Area A, shows it to contain single-story houses with 
courtyards built in blocks, many of which are preserved to roof level. These blocks are 
separated by open areas and lanes, at least one of which was roofed with a barrel vault. 
One group of three houses within this sector, located immediately to the south of Area B, 
has been excavated. They contain barrel-vaulted, rectangular rooms and larger square 
rooms, which were either open or had flat roofs. Niches, open shelves and cupboards, 
some originally closed by wooden doors, are set in the walls and some rooms had a palm- 
rib shelf. Most of the wooden doors, door frames and roof beams were removed when the 
site was abandoned, but large quantities of artifacts were left behind. These include 
fragments of household furniture, utensils (mostly pottery), clothing, jewelry, coins and, 
most significantly, documents in Coptic, Greek and occasionally Syriac, written on 
wooden boards, papyrus and, rarely, parchment. Four intact wooden codices have been 
found and in one house alone approximately 3,000 fragments of inscribed papyrus were 
discovered. Much of this was at floor level and clearly represents part of a family archive. 

Among this material are private letters, and economic and literary texts. Kellis 
emerges as the center of a regional economy which was agriculturally based. It traded 
with nearby villages and towns elsewhere in the oasis and had contacts with those in 
Kharga Oasis and several in the Nile Valley. While there are references among the texts 
to what may be orthodox Christianity, references to one of its main rivals, Manichaeism, 
occur more frequently. A unique bilingual board inscribed in Coptic and Syriac 
documents the efforts made by the Manichaean proselytizers to translate their sacred 
literature into the vernacular. Dated contracts written in Greek cover the period AD 304- 
81; the coins and ceramics confirm a fourth century AD occupation of these houses. A 

Entries A-Z 265 

fourth house with similar architectural features and of similar date has been partly 
excavated due east of the entrance to the Main Temple enclosure. 

In the south of Area A there is a wide east-west street which runs from the southeast 
corner of the Main Temple enclosure on the west, past the remains of a bath house (with 
a central heating system), and ends at a complex of two churches with associated 
buildings. These, the East Churches, are located on the northeast edge of the site. The 
larger of the two is a two-aisled basilica with a painted cupola in the apse and four 
chambers along its south wall; it is preserved to a maximum height of 3.8m. The smaller 
one has a single chamber with an elaborately decorated apse. The coins and ceramics 
excavated in the large church date to the early to late fourth century AD. It is, therefore, 
one of the earliest surviving purposely built churches in Egypt. 

Available evidence all points to an abandonment of the site at the end of the fourth 
century AD. The reasons for this are uncertain. Possible contributing factors may have 
been overexploitation of the local water supply and an increase in sand dune activity in 
this part of the Oasis. All structures examined reveal a fill predominantly of windblown 
sand with pockets of building collapse and no trace of subsequent occupation in antiquity. 

See also 

Dakhla Oasis, Dynastic and Roman sites 

Further reading 

Hope, C.A. 1985. Dakhleh Oasis Project: report on the 1986 excavations at Ismant el-Gharab. 

JSSEA 15:114-25. 
. 1986. Dakhleh Oasis Project: report on the 1987 excavations at Ismant el-Gharab. JSSEA 


. 1987. Dakhleh Oasis Project: Ismant el-Kharab 1988-1990. JSSEA 17:157-76. 

. 1988. Three seasons of excavations at Ismant el-Gharab in Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt. JMA 


Hope, C.A., O.E.Kaper, G.E.Bowen and S.F. Patten. 1989. Dakhleh Oasis Project: Ismant el- 
Kharab 1991-2. JSSEA 19:1-26. 

Mills, A.J. 1982. Dakhleh Oasis Project: report on the fourth season of survey. October 1981 - 
January 1982. JSSEA 12:93-101. 

Winlock, H.E. 1934. Ed Dakhleh Oasis. Journal of a Camel Trip Made in 1908. New York. 

Worp, K.A. 1995. Greek Papyri from Kellis 1. Oxford. 


Dakhla Oasis, prehistoric sites 

Dakhla Oasis (centered on 25°30' N, 29°00' E) is located in the Egyptian Western Desert, 
halfway between the Nile Valley and the Libyan border, at roughly the latitude of Luxor. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 266 

The largest of several Western Desert oases, Dakhla is a depression 70km long (east- 
west) by 20km wide. The oasis, bounded on the north by a 300m high plateau, is divisible 
into three zones north to south. The piedmont zone slopes southward from the base of the 
plateau to the central lowland, which is marked by a discontinuous belt of cultivation fed 
by artesian wells (the only water available today in this hyperarid area). South again, the 
third zone, with fossil spring terraces and spring mounds, old playas (ancient lakes) and 
sandstone ridging, slopes upward to the desert plain beyond. 

Aside from the mention of a few stone tools in a 1936 publication by H.E.Winlock, 
the study of Dakhla prehistory began only in the 1970s. In 1972 members of the 
Combined Prehistoric Expedition (CPE), led by Fred Wendorf of Southern Methodist 
University and Polish archaeologist Romuald Schild, visited Dakhla as part of an 
archaeological reconnaissance of the southern half of the Western Desert. While in 
Dakhla they excavated two Pleistocene spring vents in the eastern lowlands. Then in 
1978, the Dakhleh Oasis Project (DOP), with Canadian archaeologist A.J.Mills as field 
director, began its investigation of human adaptations to changing environmental 
conditions within the oasis throughout prehistoric and historic times. The DOP divides 
the prehistoric sequence into Pleistocene and Holocene portions, with M.R. Kleindienst 
responsible for the former, and M. MA. McDonald for the latter portion. 

Dakhla Pleistocene prehistory begins with the appearance of the first hominids in the 
area over a quarter of a million years ago and persists until the end of the last Ice Age, 
about 10,000 BC. Holocene prehistory runs from that date to about 2200 BC, when 
immigrants from the Nile Valley brought elements of late Old Kingdom civilization to 

A problem shared by Pleistocene and Holocene prehistorians in Dakhla and elsewhere 
in the Western Desert is that sites are usually severely deflated. In these arid areas, the 
wind over time removes all but the most consolidated of deposits, plus most organic 
material including food remains and datable remains such as charcoal. Often all that 
remains are surface scatters of stone tools and occasional hearth stones. 

The problem is particularly severe at sites of Pleistocene age, where the sometimes 
extensive scatters can be redistributed or mixed with later material. Accordingly, the 
focus in Dakhla, with some exceptions, has been less on finding localized "sites" than on 
mapping the distribution of artifacts across the landscape, relating this to geomorphic 
units, changing paleo-climates and potential resources. The Pleistocene 
geomorphological sequence, defined by DOP geographer I.A.Brookes, includes erosional 
episodes which left three gravel-bearing pediment remnants in the piedmont zone, 
labeled, from oldest to youngest, P-I, P-II and P-III. A sequence of lacustrine laminated 
sediments falls between P-II and P-III in time, while several episodes of artesian spring 
activity, within and just south of the central lowlands, have left behind extensive sheets of 
water-deposited sediments, as well as spring mounds or vents at points where the water 
surfaced. Kleindienst has been running a series of archaeological survey transects north- 
south across these geomorphic regions and into the desert beyond, sampling lithic artifact 
distributions on each, in order to determine human land-use patterns and changes in those 
patterns through the Pleistocene. In the absence of chronometric dates, artifacts are dated 
from their association with units of the geomorphic sequence, and through comparisons 
with archaeological sequences elsewhere in this part of Africa, notably that worked out 
by Gertrude Caton Thompson for nearby Kharga Oasis. 

Entries A-Z 267 

So far, several Pleistocene cultural units have been identified from analysis of the 
stone tools. They can be classified as either Early Stone Age (ESA), traditionally 
characterized by the Acheulian handax or biface, or Middle Stone Age (MSA), with its 
Levallois or specialized core preparation technique. The earliest materials identified so 
far in Dakhla are a few distinctive handaxes found on P-II gravel surfaces and the flanks 
of a spring mound. The handaxes are large, usually of quartzite rather than flint, and 
worked around their entire circumference. Typologically they are "Upper Acheulian," 
and might be 400,000 years old. 

The next well-defined unit, called the "Balat," also features bifacial tools, but of a very 
different kind. Mostly of chert, they are small (less than 160mm long, mean circa 
100mm), with thick unworked butts and trimming confined to the tip and one or both side 
edges. There is little evidence for the use of the Levallois technique or core preparation. 
It is Balat unit material that the CPE excavated in 1972, recovering hundreds of bifaces 
and other tools at two spring mounds. While Balat unit artifacts are commonly found on 
pediment surfaces and elsewhere in the oasis, the only other in situ finds are from river 
gravels of probable P-II age. The Balat, on analogy with East African material, might be 
very late Early Stone Age or, more likely, a transitional ESA/ MSA industry, and appears 
to be well over 100,000 years old. 

For the Middle Stone Age, several units have been defined, distinguishable in part by 
the size of artifacts and by site locations within the oasis. Present as well are two 
specialized groupings of stone tools, the "Aterian" or "Dakhla unit," and the "Khargan." 
As before, the evidence is largely from surface scatters, but now specialized 
sites/workshops, living sites and lookout points can sometimes be detected. A "large- 
size" MSA unit, featuring specialized cores averaging 90mm in length, and long, 
lanceolate bifacial tools is, on analogy with the Khargan sequence, early MSA. A 
probably younger "medium-size" MSA unit (mean artifact sizes 70-75mm) is, like the 
large-size unit, found mostly on P-II and other northern gravel surfaces. 

The Aterian is a distinctive North African stone tool industry featuring tanged 
implements of various kinds as well as bifacial lanceolates and specialized cores. In 
Dakhla, the Aterian or Dakhla unit is divisible into at least two variants, based in part on 
artifact size. The larger variant, featuring implements up to 150mm long, has been found 
on the piedmont, associated with post P-II sediments and P-III gravels, and on an 
occupation site in the desert well south of the oasis. Similar material occurs at Adrar 
Bous, 2,100km to the west in the central Sahara. The smaller variant, with flakes ranging 
to 110mm, occurs as knapping sites on P-II gravels and as scatters in central and southern 
Dakhla Oasis. It resembles the Aterian of Kharga Oasis, and may be less than 50,000 
years old. A still smaller MSA unit, found in Dakhla on younger surfaces and spring 
deposits, and perhaps the equivalent of Caton Thompson's "Khargan," has yielded a date 
of 23,000 BP (years before present) at Dungul Oasis in southern Egypt. 

One intriguing finding at Dakhla Oasis is the still somewhat fragmentary evidence for 
continued occupation of the oasis throughout the late Pleistocene; studies elsewhere in 
the area have suggested abandonment of the desert in the hyperarid period 50,000-12,000 

The last three prehistoric cultural units identified in Dakhla Oasis are of Holocene age. 
These sites are also severely deflated but, due to late prehistoric cultural innovations, 
more categories of evidence are now available, including grinding equipment, small finds 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 268 

of stone and shell, stone shelters, pottery and rock art. Also, fragmentary in situ deposits 
yield such organic material as bone, plant remains and charcoal for radiocarbon dating. 
Moreover, the climate can be reconstructed with some accuracy: generally, the Sahara 
was more humid than it is today through the Holocene, until about 3000 BC. 

The three Holocene prehistoric cultural units in Dakhla are the "Masara," dated 7200- 
6500 BC, the "Bashendi," 5700-3250 BC and the "Sheikh Muftah," which begins during 
the Bashendi and survives to overlap with the Old Kingdom occupation in the oasis. 

"Masara" is the local name for a cultural unit elsewhere called the "Epi-paleolithic." 
Epipaleolithic sites, scattered from the Nile Valley westward across the Sahara, tend to be 
little more than sparse clusters of lithics, the products of small, highly mobile groups of 
hunter-gatherers. Similar small sites are found in Dakhla as well, where they are labeled 
"Masara A." In Dakhla, however, the picture is complicated by the presence of 
contemporaneous sites of another kind. "Masara C" sites, in addition to lithic artifacts, 
feature clusters of stone rings, anywhere from 2-20 per site. These stone rings, 3-4m in 
diameter, oval or bi-lobed, are interpreted as bases of hut structures. They suggest 
somewhat more settled groups than at other Epi-paleolithic sites, an impression 
reinforced by the evidence for a wide variety of activities performed at these sites, from 
storage to bead making, and by their reliance on inferior but locally abundant lithic raw 
material. While Masara A sites are found across the oasis and even atop the northern 
plateau, Masara C sites are confined to one well-watered spot on the sandstone ridging in 
the southeastern corner of the oasis, an area that was also heavily settled by later 
Bashendi groups. The Dakhla Masara C sites seem unique within the eastern Sahara for 
that time: it is another 500 years before the next group of relatively settled sites appears, 
at Nabta Playa in southern Egypt. 

The next Dakhla cultural unit, the Bashendi, is divisible into two phases, A and B, on 
the basis of site location, artifact inventories, subsistence and age. While Bashendi sites 
occur throughout the oasis, the fullest record comes from the large basin and ridges in the 
south-eastern corner of Dakhla in the vicinity of the Masara C sites. Bashendi phase A 
sites consist of extensive scatters of hearths and artifacts eroding out of playa silts in the 
basin floor. Artifacts include fine bifacial knives, a variety of arrowheads (including 
hollow-based, leaf-shaped and tanged forms), grinding stones, abundant ostrich eggshell 
beads, lip-plugs of barite and rare pottery. While the assumption was that these were the 
campsites of pastoral nomads, in fact, all animal bones identified so far are of wild 
species. Radiocarbon dates are from 5700 to 5000 BC. 

One anomalous kind of site dates to the very end of the Bashendi A sequence. A group 
of stone ring sites, one consisting of 200 structures, occurs on the ridge adjacent to the 
large basin. In addition to hunting, people on these sites seem to have herded goats. Phase 
B campsites are found on the basin edge, above silt level. Characteristic artifacts include, 
besides knives and arrowheads, (side-blow) flakes, planes, small polished axes, 
amazonite beads, and marine shell pendants and bracelets. Faunal remains, mostly of 
cattle and goat, suggest a heavy reliance on domesticated animals. Phase B spans a 
millennium, starting at 4550 BC. 

Many of the characteristic artifacts of both phases A and B, including knives, 
arrowheads and many of the small finds, are shared with Neolithic and Predynastic sites 
in the Nile Valley, from Khartoum to the Delta, and also with Neolithic sites far to the 

Entries A-Z 269 

west across the Sahara. Interestingly, though, the Dakhla occurrences are older than dated 
examples from either of the other two regions. 

Sites of the third Holocene unit, the Sheikh Muftah, are located much closer to the 
oasis central lowlands, where they are often obscured by later cultural material. There is 
still no evidence of permanent settlement, although pottery is abundant and copper was 
used. The unit survived to overlap with the Old Kingdom presence in the oasis after 2200 

The picture emerging from the study of Dakhla prehistory is not so much that of an 
oasis isolated within a vast desert, as one with at least occasional far-flung contacts: with 
neighboring oases and the Nile Valley, with sites westward across the Sahara and with 
sub-Saharan Africa. Apparently large enough to support life even during a hyperarid 
period when the rest of the eastern Sahara was deserted, Dakhla Oasis seems to have 
served sometimes as a node on communication lines crossing the desert, sometimes as a 
meeting point for desert-adapted cultural traditions, and occasionally, as in mid-Holocene 
times, as a center for cultural innovation. In this last role, as cultural innovator, the 
Dakhla Bashendi unit, through its contact with the Nile Valley, appears to have 
contributed to the early stages of the development of Egyptian Neolithic and Predynastic 

See also 

Caton Thompson, Gertrude; climatic history; Kharga Oasis, prehistoric sites; Neolithic 
cul tures, overview; Paleolithic cultures, overview; Paleolithic tools 

Further reading 

Brookes, LA. 1989. Early Holocene basinal sediments of the Dakhleh Oasis region, South Central 

Egypt. Quaternary Research 32: 139-52. 
Kleindienst, M.R. In press. Pleistocene archaeology and geoarchaeology of the Dakhleh Oasis 

status report. In Reports from the Survey of Dakhleh Oasis, Western Desert of Egypt, 1977- 

1987 1, C.S.Churcher and A.J.Mills, eds. Oxford. 
McDonald, M.M.A. 1991a. Origins of the Neolithic in the Nile Valley as seen from Dakhleh Oasis 

in the Egyptian Western Desert. Sahara 4:41-52. 
. 1991b. Technological organization and sedentism in the Epipalaeolithic of Dakhleh Oasis, 

Egypt. African Archaeological Review 9:81-109. 


dating, pharaonic 

The chronology of pharaonic Egypt is based on a sequence of thirty-one dynasties, or 
ruling families, as defined by Manetho, an Egyptian priest who compiled a history of 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 270 

Egypt in the third century BC. While modern study has shown that Manetho's work is 
incorrect at many points, his basic dynastic structure with the appropriate changes is still 
used today. Manetho's dynasties and lists of kings echo those of earlier times. The 
earliest king-list we now possess is the fragmentary Palermo Stone which, in its original 
state, named the kings of Egypt up to the 5th Dynasty and important events that took 
place during their reigns. Another king-list is found on a fragmentary papyrus in Turin, 
originally a catalog of Egyptian kings up to the later 19th Dynasty with the regnal years 
of each. Other king-lists were drawn up for various reasons. The best known is the long 
roster of kings receiving offerings inscribed in the Abydos temples of Seti I and 
Ramesses II. Other lengthy lists come from private tombs, again for cultic purposes or as 
footnotes to long genealogies of high officials. Scores of shorter sequences of kings are 
found in tomb inscriptions and administrative documents. 

The sum result is that, except for the more obscure periods of Egyptian history, we 
have a workable list of families of kings for the entire thirty-one dynasties of pharaonic 
history. Thousands of religious, administrative and private documents dated to a specific 
year of a given king have helped fill in the lengths of reigns. While this element in the 
dynastic structure is still far from perfect, the chronological skeleton is there. The next 
step is to translate the dynasties, the lengths of royal reigns and the multitude of 
documents dated to these reigns into an absolute chronology in terms of dates BC. 

The background for such an absolute chronology is the Egyptian calendrical system. 
As any society must, the Egyptians kept track of units of time — days, years, seasons and 
the like — for the requirements of both religion and administration. For this, they created 
what at first sight appears to be a conflicting pair of calendars, lunar and civil. That these 
were never in synchronism presented no problem since the two calendars served different 

The most obvious method of gauging time, dating back to prehistoric times, was the 
simple observation of the seasons created by the annual phases of the Nile River. A 
period of inundation of the valley was followed by a growing season, in turn followed by 
a dry period when the Nile was low. But the onset of the inundation which began the 
agricultural year could occur at any time within a period of several weeks. The length of 
time from inundation to inundation therefore fluctuated, and any given agricultural year 
could be longer or shorter than the one before and after. Such a time frame was sufficient 
for agricultural purposes, but for nothing else. 

The more precise measurement of time required for religious festivals was 
accomplished by observing the phases of the moon, also a very early development. This 
lunar calendar was divided according to the three agricultural seasons, each of which 
lasted approximately four lunar months. The resulting twelve-month lunar year averaged 
354 days, as each lunar month is 29 or 30 days long. The names of the agricultural 
seasons — inundation, growing, dry — were retained and the months were named after the 
most important feast that took place in each. But this lunar year was also tied to the 
sidereal year in which the heliacal rising of the star Sirius, or Sothis, played a major role. 
Each year for a period of seventy days, Sirius is hidden by sunlight. The day when the 
star can again be seen in the eastern horizon just before sunrise is its heliacal rising, 
called "the coming forth of Sirius" by the Egyptians. New Year's Day in the lunar 
calendar was the first day of the lunar month following the annual heliacal rising of the 

Entries A-Z 271 

It seems likely that the reappearance of Sirius was chosen as the herald of the New 
Year because this event took place about the time the inundation of the Nile began each 
year. Since the length of the lunar year was shorter than the sidereal year of 365.25 days, 
a thirteenth lunar month was added every three or four years which kept the two in 
general synchronism with each other and with the agricultural seasons. Such a method of 
reckoning time served the needs of religion, though it was too flexible for administrative 

To fill the latter need, a civil calendar with a fixed length of 365 days was introduced 
shortly after Egypt was first united under a central government. Various theories suggest 
the 365 days arose from the average length of a series of lunar years, or the average 
length of a series of agricultural years, or simply the period between heliacal risings of 
Sirius. Whatever its origin, the civil calendar adopted the three seasons and the twelve 
months of the lunar year, each month now fixed at thirty days. Five extra, or epagomenal, 
days were added at the end of the year to fill out the 365-day total. This provided a 
calendar that was perfectly regular and without the fluctuations of the lunar calendar. 

Dates were recorded as "Year 2, month 3 of Inundation, day 16 (of King X)." It did 
not trouble the Egyptians that this "month 3 of Inundation" could occur during the dry 
season of the natural year for they understood this simply as "month 3 of season 1." In 
the civil calendar, the three "seasons" were only traditional names for three segments of 
the civil year which, from its inception, had nothing to do with agriculture. The civil 
calendar became the medium by which all documents and events were dated and 
provided a simple and uniform method for keeping administrative records. 

It must be emphasized that while the civil calendar of fixed length and the lunar 
calendar of variable length were used concurrently, they were not opposed or in 
competition with each other, but were used for entirely different purposes. The lunar 
calendar established religious events such as feast days and sacrifices. The civil calendar 
was for the ordering and recording of daily life. Judaism and Islam still use both a lunar 
and a civil calendar for the same reasons. 

From our viewpoint, there is a major flaw in the civil calendar. Its 365-day year fell 
just short of the sidereal year of 365.25 days. This means that every four years the civil 
calendar fell one more day behind the sidereal year. Dubbed by modern scholars "the 
wandering year," the civil year regularly progressed backward so that its first day 
eventually fell on every day of the sidereal year. The resulting period of 1,460 years 
(365x4) is called the "Sothic Cycle," that is, the length of time between concurrences of 
New Year's Day in both the civil and sidereal years. But this is a modern measurement of 
time, unknown to the Egyptians who always knew their civil year did not correspond to 
either the lunar year or the annual appearance of Sirius. Since this was not a problem to 
them, they never took steps to bring the two calendars into synchronism. 

It does present a problem to modern historians, for the documents they must use are 
dated by the civil calendar with its slightly shorter years, whereas our own absolute 
chronology of Egypt must be expressed in terms of the sidereal year if that chronology is 
to make sense to us. Synchronizing the Egyptian calendars is therefore a primary task of 
present-day scholarship. One important help in creating that absolute chronology are the 
rare instances in which the Egyptians recorded a heliacal rising of Sirius on a particular 
day of the civil calendar. There are only five such references known in all of Egyptian 
history, the first in the 12th Dynasty, the last in the Roman period. Using somewhat 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 272 

complicated astronomical arguments, modern scholars are able to use these as fixed 
chronological points. For example, a heliacal rising noted for the seventh year of Senusret 
III of the 12th Dynasty can be placed circa 1872 BC; another for the ninth year of 
Amenhotep I of the 18th Dynasty indicates circa 1541 BC. Adding the substantial 
information from king-lists, dated documents, and other material, a chronology can be 
worked out for the 12th and 18th Dynasties, then for the Middle and New Kingdoms to 
which these dynasties belong, and finally the dynasties before and after those kingdoms. 
The result is only an approximate chronology in terms of years BC, not a precise one. As 
there are so many variables involved, it is doubtful that precision can ever be achieved. 

A dynastic chronology such as that of Egypt depends heavily on two factors: the 
lengths of the reigns of individual kings and the number and length of coregencies. In 
themselves, individual discrepancies may seem relatively unimportant: Merenptah ruled 
ten years rather than the traditional nineteen; the coregency between Tuthmose III and 
Amenhotep II lasted from none at all to three years, according to different scholars. But 
when such minor differences occur frequently over three thousand years of history, their 
collective impact is a serious obstacle to reliable absolute dates. 

Even the astronomical testimony — records of lunar months, heliacal risings of Sirius, 
and the like — is plagued with variables. There is, for example, the arcus visionis, the 
angle between Sirius and the sun when the star is first observed in its heliacal rising. 
Modern studies have fixed this angle at 7.5°, but variations in the arcus visionis change 
the chronological calculations based on it and we have no way of determining what this 
angle was for any ancient observation. 

Another variable is the point in Egypt where an ancient observation took place. 
Memphis, Thebes and Elephantine have been defended as the site of a "national 
observatory" where official sightings of lunar phases and heliacal risings were made. The 
problem here is that a heliacal rising, for example, is observed one day earlier for every 
degree of latitude as one moves south along the Nile. Translating this into absolute dates, 
the heliacal rising recorded in the ninth year of Amenhotep I would have occurred around 
1521 BC, 1523 BC or 1519 BC, depending on whether the observation was made at 
Memphis, Thebes or Elephantine. 

The alternative is to see the whole matter in terms of the ancient setting. We have no 
reason to suppose that the Egyptians expected the new year or the new month of the lunar 
calendar to begin simultaneously throughout the country. To them, it was a matter of a 
few days at most and it did not really matter if the same religious festival was celebrated 
a few days earlier at Elephantine than at Memphis. What did matter was that any 
religious festival should occur on the proper day of the lunar year. This suggests that 
astronomical observations were made in each locality which kept its own lunar calendar. 
The lunar month or new year thus began at this or that town when the appropriate 
observations were made locally, allowing each district to adhere to the strict pattern of 
festivals and ceremonies required by religion. The civil calendar, which had none of the 
drawbacks of the lunar calendar, could be used throughout the country. It had a uniform 
meaning everywhere that never changed. A date such as "Year 2, month 3 of Inundation, 
day 16 (of King X)" meant exactly the same day — the 76th day of the king's second 
regnal year — whether it was used to date a document at Memphis, Thebes or Elephantine. 

In spite of all the problems involved, with a judicious use of all the sources noted 
above it is possible to present an absolute chronology, though one with a margin for error 

Entries A-Z 273 

that expands the farther one moves back in time. The earliest fixed date in Egyptian 
history on which all agree is 664 BC, the beginning of the 26th Dynasty. Moving back 
from that year, through historical synchronisms with Assyrian chronology, the beginning 
of the 22nd Dynasty fell in the period 947 to 940 BC, so there is already a small margin 
for error. The beginning of the 19th Dynasty is calculated as anywhere from 1320 to 1295 
BC, the margin for error now a quarter-century. This remains about the same for the 
beginning of the 18th Dynasty, said to be from 1570 to 1540 BC. 

It is with the beginning of the 12th Dynasty that a really serious discrepancy in current 
chronological studies begins; the dates currently defended range from 1994 to 1938 BC. 
This much larger margin for error results from very different interpretations of the 
astronomical evidence, in particular, the location of an assumed national observatory 
where "official" observations of the heliacal rising of Sirius were recorded. This six- 
decade margin for error remains fairly constant back through the Old Kingdom, but 
looms larger for the earliest dynasties; dates from 3100 to 2950 BC are currently 
proposed for the unification of Egypt at the beginning of the 1st Dynasty. 

See also 

dating techniques, prehistory; Manetho; overviews (all periods) 

Further reading 

Astrom, P., ed. 1987. High, Middle or Low: Acts of an International Colloquium in Absolute 

Chronology held at the University of Rothenburg 20th-22nd August 1987. Goteborg. 
Bierbrier, M.L. 1975. The Late Middle Kingdom in Egypt. Warminster. 
Kitchen, K.A. 1973. The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100-650 B.C.). Warminster. 
Krauss, R. 1985. Sothis- und Monddaten. Studien zur astronomischen und technischen Chronologie 

altagyptens (HAB 20). Hildesheim. 
Neugebauer, O. 1975. A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy, 2. Berlin. 
Parker, R.A. 1950. The Calendars of Ancient Egypt (SAOC 26). Chicago. 
. 1976. The Sothic dating of the Twelfth and Eighteenth Dynasties. In Studies in Honor of 

George H.Hughes (SAOC 34), J. lohnson and E.F.Wente, eds, 177-89. Chicago. 
Redford, D.B. 1986. Pharaonic King-lists, Annals and Day-books: A Contribution to the Study of 

the Egyptian Sense of History (SSEA 4). Mississauga. 
Ward, W.A. 1992. The Present Status of Egyptian Chronology. BASOR 288:53-66. 
Wente, E.F., and C.van Siclen. 1976. A chronology of the New Kingdom. In Studies in Honor of 

George H.Hughes (SAOC 34), J. Johnson and E.F.Wente, eds, 217-61. Chicago. 


Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 274 

dating techniques, prehistory 

Before the advent of chronometric dating methods, archaeologists of prehistoric sites in 
Egypt relied on a relative chronology based on the sequence of riverine terraces 
bordering the Nile. This sequence was first established at the beginning of this century by 
geologists K.S. Sandford and W.J.Arkell, who correlated Nile terraces with circum- 
Mediterranean marine terraces. Today this approach has been abandoned in favor of a 
relative chronology based on lithostratigraphic units belonging to successive stages in the 
evolution of the Egyptian landscape. 

So far, radiocarbon dating has been the most widely used chronometric technique. 
Recently, thermoluminescence, optical, electron spin resonance, amino acid racemization 
and uranium series dating techniques have been applied to a series of sites predating the 
range of radiocarbon age determination (approximately 60,000-40,000 years ago). 

Radiocarbon dating has been extensively used for sites ranging from Middle 
Paleolithic to Predynastic sites (as well as Dynastic sites). Carbon- 14 is a carbon isotope 
formed from nitrogen in the atmosphere. Plants and animals receive Carbon- 14 during 
their lifetimes. Carbon-14 begins to decay after the death of organisms. Until the 1970s, 
age determination was based on measurement of the radiation resulting from the decay of 
Carbon-14, which required relatively large samples of organic materials (usually 
charcoal). Today, the concentrations of Carbon-14 in very small samples can be 
measured directly using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). 

Thermoluminescence dating (TL) can be used on a number of materials, but has a 
much wider range of error than radiocarbon dating. The method is based on a 
measurement of the emission of light upon heating the sample. The amount of TL is 
proportional to the amount of radiation the material was exposed to after a certain event, 
such as the firing of clay. Optical (stimulated) dating (OSL) is based on the luminescence 
resulting from the eviction of electrons from traps in the material by the action of light. 

Electron spin resonance dating also depends on the nuclear radiation that has been 
experienced by a sample. However, in this method the electrons are not excited. Their 
signal is detected by their response to high-frequency electromagnetic radiation. The 
method is suitable for tooth enamel, mollusk shells, calcite and quartz. 

Amino-acid racemization dating depends on changes in the molecular structure of 
amino acids, the building blocks of protein. The changes hypothetically occur at a 
constant rate and produce mirror images of amino acids. The ratio of isomers of aspartic 
acid (one of the amino acids) can be used for dating samples a few thousand to several 
million years old. The technique is of limited use and is subject to errors due to the 
susceptibility of racemization to temperature. 

Uranium series dating is based essentially on the decay of thorium-230 into a series of 
uranium radio-isotopes. Calcite samples can provide age estimates in the range of 5,000- 
350,000 years. 

Thermoluminescence, optical, electron spin resonance, amino-acid racemization and 
uranium series dating techniques have been used to date Lower and Middle Paleolithic 

Entries A-Z 275 

sites and climatic events. Middle Paleolithic sites range from 175,000-70,000 years ago. 
Using a combination of radiocarbon dating and TL dating, late Quaternary sites in the 
Nile Valley and the Western Desert have been dated and assigned to arid climatic 
conditions from 65,000-12,500 BP (before present in radiocarbon years). Upper 
Paleolithic sites in Egypt date from 33,000-30,000 BP, Late Paleolithic sites date from 
20,000-12,000 BP, and Epipaleolithic sites date from circa 11,000-7,000 BP. 

Neolithic and Predynastic sites (excluding Nagada III sites) in the Nile Valley date 
from 5,900-4,600 BP. Since radiocarbon years do not correspond to calendric years, 
radiocarbon dates may be calibrated using measurements on samples dated both by tree- 
ring and radiocarbon dating techniques to obtain calendric years (BC). 

See also 

Epi-paleolithic cultures, overview; Neolithic cultures, overview; Paleolithic cultures, 
overview; Predynastic period, overview 

Further reading 

Hassan, F.A. 1985. Radiocarbon chronology of Neolithic and Predynastic sites in Upper Egypt and 

the Delta. African Archaeological Review 3:95-116. 
Sandford, K.S. 1934. Paleolithic Man and the Nile Valley in Upper and Middle Egypt. Chicago. 
Wendorf, F. 1992. The impact of radiocarbon dating on North African archaeology. In 

Radiocarbon Dating after Four Decades: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, R.E.Taylor, A. 

Long and R.S.Kra, eds, 309-23. New York. 
Wendorf, F., and R.Schild. 1992. The Middle Paleolithic of North Africa: a status report. In New 

Light on the Northeast African Past, F.Klees and R.Kuper, eds, 39-80. Koln. 
Wendorf, F., R.Schild and R.Said. 1970. Problems of dating the Late Paleolithic age in Egypt. In 

Radiocarbon Variations and Absolute Chronology, I.U.Olsson, ed., 57-79. Stockholm. 


Deir el-Bahri, Hatshepsut temple 

Queen Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty built her "Temple of Millions of Years" in the 
rock semicircle of Deir el-Bahri (25°44' N, 31°36' E) north of the funerary temple of the 
11th Dynasty King Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II, located on the west bank of the Nile 
opposite the modern town of Luxor. The ancient Egyptians called Hatshepsut' s temple 
"Djeser-Djeserw," meaning "Holy of Holies." The Arabic name of the site, Deir el-Bahri, 
meaning "The Northern Monastery," derives from the structure built there by monks 
during the Christian period. The temple of Hatshepsut is the only great temple complex 
of the early 18th Dynasty that can be reconstructed in its plan and decoration. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 276 

Hatshepsut's temple extends approximately on an east-west axis, which appears as the 
prolongation of that of the temple of Karnak on the east bank of the Nile. In addition to 
the main temple, there is a badly preserved valley temple connected to the main temple 
by a 1km alley formed by fifty pairs of sphinxes. Midway from the lower terrace an 
intermediate station for the divine bark was built (called Kha-akhet). The main temple 
consists of three successive terraces, fronted by porticoes. It ends on the upper terrace 
with a double sanctuary cut into the rock. The whole temple is built of limestone, except 
for the architrave of the Northern Portico of the middle terrace. The violet sandstone of 
this architrave is the same as that used by Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II in his Deir el-Bahri 

The temple was first explored by Richard Pococke in 1737, then by Jollois and 
Devilliers, members of the Napoleonic expedition, in 1798. A mission of the Egypt 
Exploration Fund (EEF), directed by Edouard Naville, worked at Deir el-Bahri in 1893- 
1904. The results of the EEF excavation and architectural studies were published in seven 
volumes which are still one of the basic reference sources on the temple. From 1911 to 
1931 the American Mission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York worked at 
Deir el-Bahri, under the direction of H.E.Winlock, who went on with the excavation, 
analyzed the building phases and studied the statuary. Some restoration work was 
conducted in those years by Baraize. 

In 1961 a mission of the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology of Warsaw 
University in Cairo undertook a new extensive study, a consolidation of the architectural 
structures and a restoration of the wall bas-reliefs. In the 1990s two Polish missions 
alternate seasons at Deir el-Bahri: an Epigraphic Mission of Warsaw University directed 
by J.Karkowski, and a Polish-Egyptian Restoration Mission, directed by F.Pawlicky. 

The temple was built between year 7 and year 20 of Hatshepsut. The basic religious 
and architectural conception of the temple was clearly formulated from the beginning. 
Some changes in the plan, however, are recoverable from the analysis of the architectural 
elements. The sequence of these changes is not certain: (a) an outer hypostyle hall was 
added to the Hathor shrine with a consequent change of the inclination of its ramp and 
lowering of the pavement of the middle colonnade; (b) the original plan of the solar court 
was changed and the size of the altar was increased; (c) some details of the foundations 
bear witness to further changes on the upper terrace. 

Tuthmose III had almost all of the names of Hatshepsut erased and substituted by 
those of Tuthmose II, or more rarely by those of Tuthmose I. At the same time, the 
statues and Osiride pillars of Hatshepsut were destroyed. Tuthmose III also replaced the 
coronation text of Hatshepsut with one dedicated to Tuthmose I. During the reign of 
Akhenaten, the names of the non-Amarna gods were erased; the divine names were 
restored during the reign of Horemheb and some of the scenes were redrawn. Ramesses II 
restored the temple and engraved a restoration formula in many places of the temple. 
Finally, in the Ptolemaic period, a completely new chapel was cut in the rock, beyond the 
sanctuary, in front of which a portico was added. This new sanctuary was dedicated to 
Imhotep/As clepius . 

Entries A-Z 277 

Figure 24 Plan of Queen Hatshepsut's 
temple, Deir el-Bahri 

The lower terrace measures 120><75m; it is not paved. Pairs of sphinxes were probably 
set up along the axial way. The terrace is enclosed by a wall with a gate about 2m wide at 
the center of its eastern side. On the outer side of the entrance, two quadrangular holes 
housed persea trees. The ascending ramp to the middle terrace has a rounded top 
balustrade, decorated at the base by the figure of a recumbent lion. In front of the ramp 
two T-shaped basins housed papyrus and flowers. The two porticoes at the western end of 
the terrace are symmetrical, and are about 25m wide. Their roofs lie on two rows of 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 278 

eleven elements. The outer row is composed by eleven "semi-pillars," i.e. "D-shaped" 
columns which are shaped as square pillars in the facade and, on their inner side, 
reproduce the protodoric columns of the second row. The walls of the porticoes are 
decorated with bas-reliefs representing the transportation of two obelisks in the southwest 
portico, and hunting and fishing in the northwest one. 

The middle terrace measures about 90 *75m. It is paved from the porticos to the end 
of the ramp, the balustrades of which are decorated with the coils of a snake. Three pairs 
of sphinxes were probably set along the axial way. The porticoes are slightly wider 
(about 26m) than those of the lower terrace. Their roofs lie on two rows of eleven square 
pillars. The walls of both of the porticoes are decorated with the most famous reliefs of 
the temple: in the southwest one, the expedition to the land of Punt; in the northwest one 
the scenes of the divine birth of Hatshepsut and her pilgrimage to the sanctuaries of 
northern and southern Egypt, accompanied by her father Tuthmose I. 

The Hathor Shrine on the southwest corner of the terrace is a chapel dedicated to the 
goddess Hathor, situated as an independent temple, with a ramp of its own which ran 
along the southern retaining wall of the lower terrace. It is composed of an outer 
hypostyle hall, an inner hypostyle hall, a vestibule and a double sanctuary. The roof of 
the first hypostyle hall was supported by eight square pillars and eight protodoric 
columns; the inner sides of the axial pillars are decorated with large Hathor sistra. The 
inner hypostyle hall has sixteen cylindrical columns with Hathor capitals. The most 
meaningful scenes represented on the walls of the Hathor shrine are connected with 
coronation rituals, including the cow goddess Hathor licking the hands of the queen 
(hypostyle halls); the goddess Weret-hekau giving the queen the menat necklace (hall of 
the two columns); the cow goddess Hathor suckling the queen represented as the god 
Amen (outer and inner sanctuary). 

The Anubis Shrine in the northwest corner of the middle terrace serves as a 
counterpart of the Hathor chapel; a narrow ramp with steps connects it with the northern 
portico. It consists of a hypostyle hall with twelve protodoric columns, followed by a 
narrow room on the axis, a second perpendicular room (oriented south-north) and a small 
niche. Cult and offering scenes are represented on its walls. On the southern wall of the 
hypostyle hall, the god Anubis accompanies the queen into the shrine. 

The structure of the third terrace is different from the others. The ramp leads directly 
to the porticoes, each composed of an inner row of twelve protodoric columns and an 
outer row of twelve pillars with Osiride figures of the queen. Their walls are very 
damaged and their study is still in progress; the northwest portico is decorated with the 
coronation text and scenes. A granite doorway between the porticoes opens onto a 
peristyle enclosed by three rows of protodoric columns on the south, west and north sides 
and two rows on the east side. The walls are decorated as follows: on the east and north 
walls, bark processions of the Beautiful Festival of the Valley and the Festival of Opet; 
on the south wall, coronation rituals; the back wall (west) has five smaller and four higher 
niches on each side of the axial passage to the sanctuary. They presumably contained 
kneeling and standing statues of the queen. Two groups of rooms are built beyond the 
southern and northern walls of the court, the funerary complex preceded by the so-called 
"royal palace" and the solar complex. The southern rooms, at the east end of the southern 
wall of the court, have been interpreted by R.Stadelmann as the royal palace, having a 
"window of appearance" immediately west of the entrance. The second doorway in the 

Entries A-Z 279 

southern walls lets into a vestibule with three protodoric columns, which in turn leads to 
the funerary chapels dedicated to Tuthmose I (north) and Hatshepsut (south). Their walls 
are decorated with offering scenes and chapters of the Book of the Dead. A monumental 
stela completed the back wall of each chapel. 

The solar complex is composed of three elements: (1) a vestibule with three protodoric 
columns with access from the east end of the northern wall of the court; (2) the actual 
solar court (oriented east-west) with an altar in the open air; and (3) the Upper Anubis 
shrine, which opens on the northern wall of the court. Two niches are present in the court, 
one in the southern wall, the other in the western wall, just opposite the ramp leading to 
the altar. The scenes and texts are: the gods Re-horakhty and Amen accompanying the 
Queen into the court (inside of the left jamb of the entrance); the "Text of the Baboons," 
"Cosmographic Text" and beginning of the Book of the Night (eastern wall of the altar 
court); various scenes of offering and of daily rituals (Upper Anubis shrine and in niches) 
Rehorakhty giving the symbol of life (ankh) to the Queen; and Hatshepsut as the 
(Inmutef) priest making offering to her own sacred image (western niche of the solar 

The sanctuary is composed of two rooms, one after the other, on the main axis of the 
temple. The first is a bark station, as is demonstrated by the main scenes of the long 
walls, in which the bark of Amen receives offering from Hatshepsut and Tuthmose III 
accompanied by Queen Ahmose and the two princesses Nefrura and Nefrubity. The inner 
sanctuary contained the cult image of Amen, probably housed in the ebony shrine 
presently in the Cairo Museum. A window cut in the tympanum of the western wall of 
the bark sanctuary allowed the sun's rays to reach the statue of the god. 

As all the other temples on the west bank of the Nile, Djeser-Djeserw is usually seen 
as the funerary temple of Hatshepsut. According to Haeny, however, some elements 
indicate that these sanctuaries were also used for the cult of the living king. At Deir el- 
Bahri, this double aspect is reflected in the structure of the temple, which is organized on 
two main axes: an east-west one connected with the voyage of the god Amen-Re, 
paralleled with the daily voyage of the sun god; and a south-north one connected with the 
life cycle of the pharaoh (coronation, death, rebirth). These two aspects were closely 
connected, however, as is borne out by an analysis of the scenes carved on the walls of 
the temple, where a preponderant role was certainly played by the rituals celebrated 
during the Beautiful Festival of the Valley. On that occasion the bark of Amen, coming 
from Karnak, visited the west bank and rested in the temple. During the festival, the 
queen was ritually enthroned, "Osirified" and in the end united with Amen-Re on the 
solar altar. 

See also 

cult temples of the New Kingdom; Punt; representational evidence, New Kingdom 
temples; Thebes, royal funerary temples; Thebes, Senenmut monuments 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 280 

Further reading 

Haeny, G. 1982. La fonction religieuse des "Chateaux de millions d'annees." In L'Egyptologie en 

1979: axes prioritaires de recherches 1. Paris. 
Naville, E. 1894-1908. The Temple ofDeir el-Bahari, 7 vols. (Memoirs 12-14, 16, 19, 27 and 29). 

Pirelli, R. 1994. Some consideration on the temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahari. Annali 

dell'Istituto Universitario Orientale, Napoli 54:455-63. 
Stadelmann, R. 1979. Totentempel und Millionenjahrhaus in Theben. MDAIK 35: 303-21. 


Deir el-Bahri, Meket-Re tomb 

Meket-Re held the titles of Chancellor and Steward of the Royal Palace in the reign of 
Nebhetepre Mentuhotep II in the 11th Dynasty. He chose to have his large, terraced, 
tomb (TT 280) prepared in the valley south of Deir el-Bahri in the Theban necropolis. It 
was excavated by Georges Daressy in 1895 and again by Sir Robert Mond in 1902, but it 
was not until a later clearing operation carried out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art 
under Ambrose Lansing and Herbert Winlock in 1920 that the most sensational finds 
connected with this tomb came to light. 

Meket-Re's tomb is approached by a wide and steep avenue 80m long. At the top of 
this inclined ramp is a long portico of nine columns with two corridors cut into the rock 
behind it. One of the corridors is centered on the portico while the other is to the left and 
was probably prepared at a later time for Meket-Re's son. Little was preserved of the 
decoration of this rich tomb and the original intention of the Metropolitan Museum 
expedition was to clear the approach and chambers so that the tomb could be accurately 
mapped and planned. Work was proceeding on the tomb until 17 March 1920, when one 
of the workmen employed in the clearance noticed that small chips of stone were slipping 
into a crack in the rock. When the supervisors were able to bring flashlights to illuminate 
the cavity, one of the great archaeological discoveries in Egypt was recognized. 

The find consisted of a small chamber which had previously escaped notice and still 
contained the complete set of tomb models prepared for the owner. During the Middle 
Kingdom, when Meket-Re lived, one of the funerary practices current was to furnish the 
tomb with models of activities such as cattle raising, baking and brewing, carpentry, 
weaving and other aspects of daily life. Generally such models were made of wood, 
coated with gesso or plaster, and painted. Their quality could vary considerably according 
to the rank and wealth of the tomb owner, but the detailed information they furnish on 
aspects of the crafts and trades in ancient Egypt is great. 

The small chamber in Meket-Re's tomb took three days of hard work to clear. 
Although most of the twenty-four models found were in good condition, some had been 
damaged by falling fragments of stone within the chamber. On the whole, they were 

Entries A-Z 281 

remarkably preserved and no similarly complete complement of high quality models has 
been found. These included three models which were properly associated with the burial 
in the tomb. Of these, two were large images of single female offering bearers, 
beautifully painted and posed with baskets of food and drink on their heads. The third, a 
model of a group, depicted a priest carrying his censer and libation vessel followed by 
three offering bearers, a combination of figures known from the furnishings of other 
tombs. The remainder of the twenty-four models were all miniature tableaux of daily life, 
included in the tomb furnishings for the magical purpose of providing the spirit or soul 
with necessities in the afterlife. 

The largest of these was a scene of cattle counting in which the tomb owner is found 
seated on a columned porch, accompanied by his son. Clerks and stewards count and 
manage the count. Herdsman prod and chastise the brightly colored cattle, all together 
capturing the activity of the estate and the accounting to the master. The counting is 
actually only one part of the cattle production cycle portrayed in the models. Two others, 
the cattle barn and the butcher shop, show in detail the steps in the feeding and the 
ultimate slaughter with such telling details as the preparation of blood pudding and the 
hanging of meat cuts to dry. 

Two of the models have to do with the storage and processing of grain. The activities 
of the granary include not only the men who are measuring and storing the grain, but also 
the scribes who are keeping the accounts on papyrus rolls and tally boards. The grain as it 
is prepared for consumption is shown in a composite model which includes the processes 
of both baking and brewing. The grain is ground and made into cakes, and mash is 
prepared. Vats of fermenting mash stand to the side and some of it is poured into jars. In 
the bakery the grain is cracked and ground, dough is worked and cakes fashioned which 
are then put into ovens. 

The weaving shop illustrates the whole procedure from the preparation of flax and 
spinning of thread to the weaving of cloth on horizontal looms. The carpentry shop is 
equally detailed including the process of squaring timbers and ripping planks, as well as 
the cutting of mortises in furniture. Included in the shop was a tool chest, with a complete 
set of carpenter tools in miniature. Two garden models represent the most important 
aspect of any richly appointed house or dwelling. Rather than depicting interior rooms for 
activities such as sleeping, a choice was made to illustrate the center of life for the well- 
to-do Egyptian, the walled garden with pool. Wood and plaster fruit trees surround a 
copper-lined pool which could have held real water. 

No fewer than half of the models in the tomb were of boats, underlining the 
importance of the river to the ancient Egyptians. Winlock, who published the models, 
described four of the vessels as large traveling boats, either rigged with full sail for 
sailing with the wind or with mast lowered for rowing with the current. Smaller vessels 
("yachts") were probably intended for short trips, and there is one skiff of the type used 
for hunting and fishing. In addition, two models of kitchen tenders illustrate the necessity 
for separating that activity from the master's vessel for his comfort. Two papyrus or reed 
boats are represented with a drag net stretched between them, complete with model fish 
being caught. The amount of detail in these boat models provides a great deal of 
information on the construction, rigging, handling and use of ancient Egyptian boats. 

Half of the models were retained by the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and half were 
given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and are now in New York. In both museums 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 282 

they are among the most interesting, detailed and vivid reminders of daily life in Egypt as 
it was almost four thousand years ago. 

See also 

mortuary beliefs; shawabtis, servant figures and models; ships; tomb furnishings 

Further reading 

Winlock, H.E. 1942. Excavations at Deir el Bahri 1911-1931. New York. 

. 1955. Models of Daily Life in Ancient Egypt from the Tomb ofMeket-Re' at Thebes. 

Cambridge, MA. 


Deir el-Bahri, Mentuhotep II complex 

Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II (11th Dynasty) was the first Theban king to build his temple at 
Deir el-Bahri (25°44' N, 31°36' E), south of the later temples of Queen Hatshepsut and 
Tuthmose III. This is also the first and only Middle Kingdom monument whose history, 
architecture, texts and decoration are well known. Like the other two temple complexes 
at Deir el-Bahri, it lies on an east-west axis and has a valley temple, monumental ramp, 
large enclosure wall and main temple. The temple consists of a quadrangular, three-level 
structure with pillared porticoes, followed by a peristyle court and a rock-cut sanctuary. 

The first investigations of the temple were conducted by Baron Dufferin and 
collaborators in 1858-9, and again in 1869. They discovered numerous monuments, 
including the tomb of Queen Tern, a seated statue of Amen-Re and a granite altar of the 
king. In 1868 Howard Carter chanced upon the royal "cenotaph" of Bab el-Hosan, within 
the enclosure wall, which he excavated in 1900-1. Edouard Naville worked in the temple 
from 1903 to 1907 and published three volumes for the Egypt Exploration Fund. He also 
formulated the hypothesis that the original temple was surmounted by a pyramidal 
building. In the early 1920s Herbert Winlock, director of the Metropolitan Museum of 
Art expedition, studied the tombs of the princesses, and the large forecourt. The most 
recent study was by Dieter Arnold, who directed an expedition for the German 
Archaeological Institute, Cairo, from 1966 to 1971. Arnold's work suggests a new 
reconstruction of the temple and a new interpretation of the whole complex. 

Construction of the temple began in the first decade of Mentuhotep II' s reign, and 
probably continued until the end of his life. The main building phase, however, was from 
regnal years 30-39. Sandstone was used for the foundations, columns, architraves and 
walls of the inner part of the temple; limestone was used for the walls of the outer part. 
According to Arnold, there are four main phases of construction: 

Entries A-Z 283 

1 An eastern enclosure wall was built, presumably for a project that was later abandoned, 

dating to the period of reunification of Egypt under Mentuhotep II, when the king's 
Horus name was "S'ankhibtawy." 

2 A large enclosure wall, replacing the old one, the "cenotaph" of Bab el-Hosan and the 

tombs and statue chapels of the princesses were built when Mentuhotep II used 
another Horus name, Ncttry.Hedjet. 

3 Most of the structures of the temple were built in this phase (corresponding to the 

period of the later Horus name of Mentuhotep, Smatawy), including the terrace, 
central structure surrounded by an ambulatory, hypostyle hall, the long ramp with the 
king's tomb and the statue chapel. 

4 In this last phase, the ramp and the lower pillared hall were completed, and the 

sanctuary of Amen-Re was built. 

A mudbrick-paved ramp, 960m long and flanked by limestone walls, led from the valley 
temple (not discovered) to the enclosure wall (which originally followed the curve of the 
valley and was successively changed to a rectangular shape), where a pylon gateway gave 
access to the large court in front of the temple proper. A seated statue of Mentuhotep II 
was on each side of the entrance. Within the court, a subterranean structure (Bab el- 
Hosan) is cut into the rock. It contained the sandstone statue of the seated king, painted 
with black skin and wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, and a wooden coffin. Boat 
models were found in another pit below this structure, which has been variously 
interpreted as a cenotaph or a ritual burying place for the statues of the king, connected 
with the jubilee (l>eii-teJ) ceremony. 

In front of the lower pillared portico, where circular depressions are still visible, were 
the remains of fifty-five tamarisk trees and eight sycamores, which flanked the ramp 
leading to the upper level of the temple. Standing statues of the king were found here by 
Winlock. The ramp divides the lower portico into two asymmetrical halves, the northern 
of which is wider (28.58m, with two rows of 13 square pillars) than the southern one 
(23.75m, with two rows of 11 square pillars). On the east wall of the northern half were 
reliefs of the bark procession of Amen-Re. 

The ramp led to an upper level, with pillared porticoes on the north, east and south 
sides, whose walls were decorated with scenes of battles, hunting and fishing. These 
walls enclosed an ambulatory around a central square nucleus, which rose about 11m 
above the ambulatory in a stepped shape. The roof of the ambulatory was supported by 
three rows of eight-sided columns (on its north, east and south sides) and two rows of 
columns (on its west side). The inner walls of the ambulatory were decorated with cult 
scenes. Six earlier limestone chapels were incorporated in the west wall of the 
ambulatory, and were dedicated to the royal wives. The chapels, which housed statues of 
the royal wives, were decorated with scenes of them with the king, and offering scenes. 
Their tombs were behind the chapels. 

To the west of the ambulatory was a peristyle court with two rows of eight-sided 
columns on its east side and one row on its north and south sides; its walls were 
decorated with butchering scenes. From the middle of the court a descending east-west 
ramp, 150m long, was cut into the rock. Covered with sandstone, this has a vaulted roof 
and three niches in its walls contained wooden models of boats, granaries and bread. The 
ramp leads to the burial chamber, which is covered with granite slabs and has an alabaster 
shrine for the royal coffin. Unfortunately, the tomb was robbed and very few fragments 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 284 

of tomb goods were still on the floor. To the south of the ramp entrance, a square 
limestone altar was found. 

A gate in the middle of the west wall of the peristyle court gave access to the oldest 
known hypostyle hall, consisting of eighty columns. Its walls were decorated with 
offering scenes. Two sandstone false doors were erected on the south and north sides of 
the west wall, in the middle of which was a rock-cut sanctuary for a standing statue of the 
king, and, according to Arnold, a third false door (not found). In the southwest corner of 
the hall was the rock-cut tomb of the chief royal wife, Tern. It contained only the remains 
of an alabaster coffin. 

In the last building phase, the four westernmost columns of the hypostyle on each side 
of the temple axis were incorporated into a newly built Amen-Re sanctuary in which the 
royal cult was, for the first time, connected with that of the god. In the sanctuary was a 
high offering table with a ramp on its east side. The sanctuary walls were decorated with 
various cult and ceremonial scenes. Artifacts found nearby include a sandstone statue 
base of Mentuhotep II's and a limestone seated statue of the god Amen. 

The great innovations that Mentuhotep II introduced in the building of his temple 
complex at Deir el-Bahri resulted in an original structure which expressed a sophisticated 
conceptual framework. According to Arnold, this 11th Dynasty temple is the missing link 
between the royal ka chapels of the Old Kingdom and the royal funerary temples of the 
New Kingdom. In the design of this temple, the king respected both Memphite traditions 
and the Upper Egyptian tradition of a rock-cut tomb with a pillared portico in the facade. 

Around this funerary structure, however, Mentuhotep II created a network of royal and 
divine cults, which was a new conception for the royal cult center. Added to this is the 
concept of the mound-shaped temple, which, according to Arnold, recalls the cult centers 
of Montu (here in his aspect as Montu-Re). The king himself is represented with a falcon 
head and double feather, the emblem of the god Montu. The sanctuary of Amen-Re also 
shows for the first time a clear link between the cult of the royal statue and that of the 
"new" god (Amen-Re). 

Beginning with Amenemhat I's reign (early 12th Dynasty), the Amen-Re sanctuary in 
the Mentuhotep II temple became one of the settings for the ceremonies of the "Beautiful 
Feast of the Valley," but it was not until the reign of Senusret III that the temple was 
enriched with other monuments: a large granite stela and six standing statues of the king, 
which were found by Naville. Naville also discovered fragments of several artifacts (for 
example, a limestone slab and a wooden shrine) inscribed with the names of various 
kings of the 13th- 17th Dynasties, which demonstrate that the temple remained in use 
throughout the Second Intermediate Period. 

From the beginning of the 18th Dynasty, the site of Deir el-Bahri became one of the 
most important seats of the cult of Amen-Re in connection with the cult of the king. 
Amenhotep I built a mudbrick sanctuary in this area and erected statues in the forecourt, 
probably flanking the ramp leading up to the temple. In Queen Hatshepsut's reign, the 
religious center was moved to the north, where she built her great temple. Under 
Tuthmose III, who built his own temple and a new shrine of Hathor near the terrace of 
Mentuhotep II's temple, the Middle Kingdom sanctuary was again brought into the ritual 
circuit and many statues dedicated to Hathor were found here. During the Amarna period 
(Akhenaten's reign) many of the sculptures in this complex were destroyed. The temple 
was restored during the Ramesside period (19th-20th Dynasties), as is demonstrated by 

Entries A-Z 285 

inscriptions of Ramesses II and Siptah and many ex-votos dedicated to Amen-Re and 
Hathor. From the end of the 19th Dynasty and the beginning of the 20th, however, the 
ceremonial use of Mentuhotep II' s temple came to an end. It was used as a quarry and 
limestone and sandstone blocks were removed to construct new buildings. Most of the 
columns fell and very little of the temple was preserved before its ruins were covered by 
debris of the Coptic era and desert sand. 

See also 

Abydos, North, ka chapels and cenotaphs; First Intermediate Period, overview; kingship; 
Middle Kingdom, overview; Thebes, royal funerary temples 

Further reading 

Arnold, D. 1974. Der Tempel des Konigs Mentuhotep von Deir el-Bahari. Mainz. 
Naville, E. 1907-13. The Xlth Dynasty Temple at Deir el-Bahari, 3 vols. London. 
Winlock, H.E. 1942. Excavations at Deir el Bahri 1911-1931. New York. 


Deir el-Bahri, royal mummy cache 

The Deir el-Bahri cache, Theban Tomb (TT) 320, was the larger of two caches of royal 
mummies discovered near the end of the nineteenth century in the Theban necropolis, 
opposite modern Luxor. TT 320 is located in the northern corner of a small bay in the 
cliffs just south of Deir el-Bahri. The date of its original excavation and the history of its 
reuse are currently being debated, but certain facts are undisputed. From inscriptions we 
know that tomb robbery was a serious problem at Thebes by the end of the 20th Dynasty. 
Inscriptions also indicate that for about thirty-five years, from year 5 of Siamen (21st 
Dynasty) to years 10-13 of Sheshonk I (22nd Dynasty), TT 320 served as a crypt for the 
family of the High Priest of Amen, Pinudjem II, and for some of his ancestors whose 
original tombs may have been robbed. During most of this period, the tomb was also used 
periodically for the reburial of some of the most famous kings of the New Kingdom, their 
relatives and valued retainers. Inscriptions on the wrappings and coffins of the royal 
mummies record that some had been moved several times before finding their way into 
the cache. 

The choice of TT 320 as a secure hiding place for the royal mummies was an inspired 
one. Its entrance is a wide shaft, approximately 10m deep, excavated into an alcove at the 
level where a talus slope meets the base of the high cliffs. The shaft was easily filled and 
camouflaged to resemble its surroundings. After it was finally sealed about 935 BC, it lay 
undetected for more than 2,800 years. It was rediscovered in the summer of 1871 by 
members of the Abd er-Rassul family from the nearby village of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 286 

During the next ten years, the tomb was entered about three times and some of the 
more portable and marketable objects, including papyri, shawabtis, heart scarabs and 
canopic jars, were removed and sold on the antiquities market. Most of the pieces came 
from the 21st Dynasty burials and when funerary objects naming the high priests of 
Amen and their relatives began appearing in Europe in 1874, Gaston Maspero suspected 
that one or more tombs belonging to this powerful Theban family had been found by 
modern tomb-robbers. In January of 1881, after succeeding August Mariette as Director 
of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, Maspero had gathered enough information to initiate 
an official inquiry. Late in June, when Maspero was out of Egypt, the tomb's location 
was revealed to local authorities in Upper Egypt. 

In Maspero's absence, Emile Brugsch, one of his assistants at the Bulaq Museum 
(precursor of the present Egyptian Museum), was sent to investigate. When he entered 
the tomb, Brugsch was astonished to find, lying along a lengthy corridor and in a side 
chamber, the mummies and fragmentary burial equipment of pharaohs and royal relatives 
from the 17th-20th Dynasties. The 21st Dynasty burials that Brugsch had expected to find 
lay in a large chamber at the end of the tomb. For security reasons, Brugsch felt 
compelled to clear the tomb as quickly as possible. As a result, the mummies and 
funerary equipment were removed in a mere forty-eight hours. No complete inventory of 
the tomb's contents was ever made, either during the clearance or later. The most 
complete contemporary descriptions of the cache were written by Maspero, who never 
saw the objects in situ, although he visited the tomb with Brugsch early in 1882. 

As far as it is possible to reconstruct, the disposition of burials in the tomb was 
somewhat confused. This was partly because of the modern robbers, but also because 
most of the mummies and equipment had been salvaged in ancient times from pillaged 
tombs. The names of forty-five individuals were preserved in inscriptions on the funerary 
furniture, but only forty mummies were present. These were enclosed in a variety of 
coffins, not necessarily their own. For example, the mummy of Queen Ahmose-Inhapy 
(18th Dynasty) was found in the coffin of the royal nurse Rai (18th Dynasty), whose 
mummy was discovered in the coffin of a man named Paheripedjet (21st Dynasty), whose 
mummy was not in the cache. Among the mummies were those identified as Seqenenre 
Ta'o II of the 17th Dynasty, who appears to have died in the wars against the Hyksos; 
Ahmose, first king of the 18th Dynasty, and his immediate successors Amenhotep I, 
Tuthmose I, Tuthmose II and Tuthmose III; Ramesses I, Seti I and Ramesses II, the first 
three rulers of the 19th Dynasty; and Ramesses III and Ramesses IX of the 20th Dynasty. 
The majority were identified in inscriptions written on their wrappings and coffins by 
officials of the 21st and 22nd Dynasties who were attempting to protect them from 
further desecration. However, a number of the bodies had been rewrapped in ancient 
times and the identities of several have been questioned on forensic grounds. 

Two suggestions have been made concerning the origin of TT 320: either that it was 
excavated for Ahmose-Inhapy or another queen of the 18th Dynasty and modified in the 
21st Dynasty; or that it was entirely excavated in the 21st Dynasty. Only the discovery of 
foundation deposits will conclusively identify the intended owner; however, the 
dimensions and plan of the first half of the tomb (as recorded by Maspero and Brugsch) 
suggest that it was excavated early in the 18th Dynasty and expanded in the 21st Dynasty. 
The placement of the mummies within the tomb, as far as we know it, indicates that, in 
the 21st Dynasty, TT 320 was intended as a crypt for the family of the high priests of 

Entries A-Z 287 

Amen, but that it gradually became viewed as a secure cache for some of the displaced 
royal mummies of the New Kingdom. 

See also 

Maspero, Sir Gaston Camille Charles; mum mies, scientific study of; mummification; 
Thebes, Valley of the Kings 

Further reading 

Dewachter, M. 1975. Contribution a l'histoire de la cachette royale de Deir el-Bahari. BSFE 74:19- 

Niwinski, A. 1984. The Bab el-Gusus tomb and the royal cache in Deir el-Bahri. JEA 70: 73-81. 
Reeves, C.N. 1990. Valley of the Kings: The Decline of a Royal Necropolis. London. 


Deir el-Bahri, Tuthmose III temple 

Discovered by Polish archaeologists working on behalf of the Egyptian Antiquities 
Organization in 1962, the Deir el-Bahri temple of Tuthmose III lies immediately south of 
the temple of Hatshepsut (25°44' N, 31°36' E). The excavations brought to light the 
ruined building and thousands of broken polychrome wall reliefs, originating from the 
temple decoration. Royal and private statues were found, dating from the New Kingdom, 
along with hieratic graffiti left by the Ramesside pilgrims on the columns and walls, 
hieratic and Coptic ostraca, and a large collection of stone-cutting tools. The latter served 
in dismantling the temple and recutting its building materials for reuse. This happened at 
the very end of New Kingdom. 

The temple was probably founded in the middle of the Tuthmose Ill's reign and was 
named "Holy of Monuments" (Djeser-menu). Later, in the last decade of that reign, under 
the supervision of Vizier Rekhmire, it was redesigned and renamed "Holy Horizon" 
(Djeser-akhet). In general, the building followed the earlier terraced temples at Deir el- 
Bahri, having three levels joined by ramps flanked with porticoes. The upper level, a 
platform partly cut into the cliff and partly constructed, supported the main body of the 
edifice. This consisted of a large (26><38m) hypostyle hall, and a row of smaller shrines 
behind it. A granite doorway led to the bark shrine. The hypostyle hall had an unusual 
inner arrangement, with a double row of eight polygonal, 32-sided columns in its center, 
situated transversally to the main axis. From all sides this central "kiosk" was surrounded 
by seventy-six smaller, 16-sided columns. The roof of the side colonnades was lower, 
with mullion windows filling the space between two levels of the roof. This hall can be 
considered as one of few predecessors of later ones with a raised central aisle. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 288 

The main god of the temple was Amen-Re in two forms: Amen-Re and Amen-Re- 
Kamutef . Hathor had a special chapel with an inner speos in which the famous cow statue 
was discovered by Edouard Naville in 1904. Both the richly decorated shrine and the 
statue are displayed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The chapel was located behind the 
northern side of the Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II temple, below the Tuthmose III temple 

The entire interior of the temple was decorated with finely carved polychrome reliefs 
depicting various offering scenes and the procession of the sacred bark of Amen during 
the Beautiful Feast of the Valley. During the demolition of the building, probably after it 
was damaged by a rock slide, all the walls were dismantled. Before recutting of the stone 
blocks was finished the stonecutters left the site, which was then buried deep in the ever- 
growing mound of rocky debris. The monks of the neighboring Coptic monastery used 
the site as a burial ground and dump. 

Some of the wall blocks cracked during the demolition and were left as useless; the 
rest of the building material was reshaped, and in the process its decoration was hacked 
out. The flakes were left behind, creating a gigantic jigsaw puzzle for the team of Polish 
archaeologists, who have been working since 1978 to reconstruct on paper the original 
decoration of most of the temple walls. The actual reconstruction of the beautifully 
painted reliefs was undertaken by professional restorers. Two of the completely preserved 
wall blocks — one with the image of black-faced Amen-Re-Kamutef and one with the 
head of Tuthmose Ill-are displayed in the Luxor Museum. A small museum is planned in 
the building at the site in which the Tuthmoside material is stored. A restored wall of the 
sanctuary will be a major exhibit there. 

See also 

cult temples, construction techniques; cult temples of the New Kingdom; New Kingdom, 
overview; representational evidence, New Kingdom temples 

Further reading 

Lipinska, J. 1977. The Temple of Tuthmosis III, Architecture (Deir el-Bahari II). Warsaw. 

. 1984. The Temple of Tuthmosis III, Statuary and Votive Monuments (Deir el-glyphs IV). 


. 1996. Exquisite details: Thutmose III relief fragments. KMT 7 (2):46-51. 


Deir el-Ballas 

The ancient settlement of Deir el-Ballas is located on the west bank of the Nile in 
northern Upper Egypt, next to the modern village of Deir el-Gharbi, also known as ed- 

Entries A-Z 289 

Deir (26°03'N, 32°45'E). The area had been noted by early travelers as a pottery 
production center for a type of marl-ware water jar known as a ballas. During 
excavations at Nagada and Ballas, a brief investigation of the site was undertaken for the 
Egypt Exploration Fund by Flinders Petrie and J.E.Quibell. At Quibell's suggestion, 
George Reisner, who had been appointed head of an expedition from the University of 
California at Berkeley, began working at Deir el-Ballas in 1900, with the Hearst 

The Hearst Expedition uncovered a large royal palace, a settlement and a series of 
cemeteries dating to the late Second Intermediate Period and early 18th Dynasty. The 
ancient settlement at Deir el-Ballas is situated in a natural amphitheater formed in the 
limestone cliffs bordering the high desert to the west. The two ends of this bay 
circumscribe the area of settlement which ran along the desert edge of the cultivation for 
a distance of approximately 2km. The terrain is a low gravel plain dissected by wadi 
beds. The site can be divided into six main areas as defined by topographic features. 
From north to south they are: the North End, the North Hill, the North Wadi, the Central 
Wadi, the South Hill and the South Wadi. Occupation stretched back only a few hundred 
meters from the edge of the cultivation; however, the settlement may have originally 
extended under the present edge of the modern town and surrounding agricultural lands. 

Situated at the approximate center of the bay are the remains of the largest and most 
prominent structure at the site. The importance of this building was immediately 
recognized by Reisner and it was termed the "North Palace." It is a large mudbrick 
structure surrounded by a large enclosure wall, approximately 300><150m. The eastern 
end of the enclosure ran under the modern cultivation and has never been traced. A 
smaller walled court, roughly 60m square, is appended to the northwest corner of the 
main enclosure. Both these enclosures cover an area of at least 45,000m square. 

The North Palace was positioned at the center of the large enclosure and was laid out 
as a series of courts with a long entrance corridor. The whole complex was grouped 
around an elevated platform constructed on casemate foundations which consisted of 
long mudbrick chambers filled in with rubble and capped by a mudbrick pavement. Some 
of these casemates are preserved to a height of approximately 5m, and since traces of 
pavement were found above them, this must have been their original height. Presumably, 
this core of casemates supported the raised private apartments of the palace. 

As with other royal residences, the North Palace was decorated with wall paintings. In 
this case little of any figural decoration remained except for fragments of a platoon of 
men carrying battleaxes. The Hearst Expedition also discovered fragments of gold leaf 
and faience tiles, which appear to have embellished the structure. 

To the west of the small enclosure were three large houses (circa 5xl0-20m). The 
interiors had been decorated with wall paintings, only traces of which remained. These 
dwellings were fairly lavish and must be related to some significant function of the 
palace. Another nearby structure consisted of a large rectangular court, circa 25m 2 , 
surrounded by smaller rooms along with two grain silos within the court and a large 
semicircular oven on the northern side of the building which probably had been a bakery 
built to serve the palace. 

Many of the private houses excavated by Reisner's expedition were poorly recorded; 
however, it is clear from the recent surveys that a substantial part of the ancient 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 290 

settlement has survived unexcavated and a significant amount of information is still 
recoverable, even in the areas previously exposed. 

To the south of the central wadi is a low rise which was designated as the "South 
Hill." On the northern side of this hill a group of small, roughly built, contiguous-walled 
dwellings were uncovered by the original expedition. The plan of this group suggests a 
workmen's village, comparable to the initial stage of the Deir el-Medina village. Traces 
of about thirty-five individual structures were uncovered by the Hearst Expedition. The 
houses vary in size and plan, but basically there are three-room units with a large court 
and two smaller rooms opening onto it. The courts were sometimes paved with mudbrick 
and contained hearths and mangers for animals. The individual buildings varied in size, 
approximately 5-15m 2 . 

Near this area, on the east side of the hill by the village, the recent expedition 
discovered scattered traces of small rectangular structures roughly built and partially cut 
into the hillside. Varying in size and plan, they generally appear to be about 20x10m, and 
occasionally have short flights of stairs. The design of these buildings resembles the 
chapels of the workmen's village at Tell el-Amarna, which consisted of one or more 
courts connected with a short flight of steps and a niche for the placement of votive 
artifacts. The layout and positioning of these shrines also corresponds to the chapels 
associated with the Tell el-Amarna workmen's village. 

At the southern end of the site in the South Wadi, Reisner excavated a number of very 
large structures. They were among the most lavish in the site and some had columned 
halls, grain silos, mangers and associated outbuildings. 

Farther east of the wadi was another group of buildings which did not appear to be of 
the same character. Here there are traces of structures forming a very orderly arrangement 
and of unusually large size (circa 60x40m). They appear to be tightly grouped in an 
orderly pattern, and bordered by long narrow structures (circa 70+xlOm). This layout 
suggests an administrative complex analogous to that found in the central city at Tell el- 

The southernmost structure was termed the "South Palace" by the Hearst Expedition. 
In reality, the structure does not appear to be a palace at all. It sits atop a high hill that 
marks the southern end of the site and consists of a large rectangular platform built on 
casemates, measuring 100x44m. The top tier reaches a height of 25m above the plain and 
commands a view of the Nile and surrounding territory. A broad stairway runs 5.5m from 
the top of the platform to the lower level of the building. Atop the platform must have 
been an additional structure, and large quantities of mudbrick rubble and gypsum plaster 
rise several meters above the top of the upper casemates. Its design and location suggest 
that it must have served as an observation post. 

From the stratigraphy uncovered here and noted elsewhere at the site, it was evident, 
as indicated by the records of the Hearst Expedition, that the site had a single period of 
occupation with some possible "squatter" reoccupation after a period of abandonment in 
the early 18th Dynasty. 

The site seems to have been occupied for only a very brief period of time. A lintel of 
Sekhenenre Ta'o II (circa 1591-1576 BC) was discovered reused in the modern village, 
which probably came from the North Palace. The ceramic material likewise seems to be 
of exclusively late Second Intermediate Period types. Jar sealings of Ahmose and votive 
models of ships and weapons were found in a level of post-abandonment debris in the 

Entries A-Z 291 

North Palace. Graves which cut through the workmen's village date to the early 18th 
Dynasty, suggesting that this part of the site was also vacated at this date. 

The archaeological evidence, including the inscribed material, indicates that Deir el- 
Ballas functioned as a "campaign palace" for the Theban pharaohs during the Hyksos 
expulsion. This would also explain its rather rapid abandonment in the early 18th 
Dynasty after the reunification of Egypt. Recent fieldwork at the Hyksos capital in the 
Delta by Manfred Bietak and the Austrian Archaeological Institute at the site of Ezbet 
Helmi have uncovered two large structures remarkably similar to the North and South 
Palaces at Deir el-Ballas and they have now been ascribed to this period. 

See also 

Deir el-Medina; New Kingdom, overview; Reisner, George Andrew; Second 
Intermediate Period, overview; Tell ed-Dab'a, Second Intermediate Period; Tell el- 
Amarna, city 

Further reading 

Lacovara, P. 1990. Deir el-Ballas: Preliminary Report on the Deir el-Ballas Expedition 1980- 
1986. Winona Lake, IN. 

. 1997. The New Kingdom Royal City. London. 


Deir el-Bersha 

Near and partly under the modern village of Deir el-Bersha (27°45' N, 30°54' E), this site 
is mainly known for its rock-cut tombs of the Middle Kingdom. Located on the east bank 
of the Nile, the site is opposite the town of Mallawi. Due east of the village is the Wadi 
Deir en-Nakhla. Rock-cut tombs of the Old Kingdom are on the southern side of the 
wadi, near its mouth, and the Middle Kingdom tombs are higher up on the north side. 
North of the later tombs are the remains of a Coptic hermitage. 

The Middle Kingdom tombs are mainly those of the governors (nomarchs) of the Hare 
nome, who resided in Hermopolis (modern el-Ashmunein). The owners of the earlier Old 
Kingdom tombs, however, were not nomarchs, for these tombs were located at Sheikh 

On the desert plain east of the village is an extensive Middle Kingdom cemetery with 
simple tombs of mudbrick. Some tombs in this area, however, were fairly large, as 
demonstrated by a recently discovered mudbrick superstructure (mastaba) with false 
doors and reliefs. The rock-cut tombs must have been beautifully decorated, although 
they were somewhat smaller than the contemporary ones at Beni Hasan. Unfortunately, 
most are now badly damaged by quarrying in the New Kingdom and Late period. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 292 

The quarries were excavated over an extensive area, from deep in the wadi to its 
mouth. Some features of the quarries are still visible, such as transport roads and the 
remains of workers' huts. Limestone columns and sarcophagi for ibises and baboons, 
used at Tuna el-Gebel, were produced here. 

After the initial publication of the Middle Kingdom texts and reliefs, extensive 
excavation took place around the turn of the century. Currently, an American-Dutch 
mission is investigating these tombs and the quarries. 

See also 

Beni Hasan; Middle Kingdom, overview; Old Kingdom provincial tombs; Tuna el-Gebel 

Further reading 

Newberry, P.E., and F.L.Griffith. 1894. El-Bersheh (2 vols). London. 
Terrace, E.L.B. 1968. Egyptian Paintings of the Middle Kingdom. New York. 
Silverman, D., et al. 1992. Bersheh Reports I. Joint Expedition of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 
University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, State University of Leiden. Boston. 


Deir el-Medina 

This is a site in western Thebes (25°44' N, 32°36' E) consisting of the village and tombs 
of the workmen who carved and decorated the royal New Kingdom tombs in the Valley 
of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. The village was laid out probably during the reign 
of Amenhotep I, as he and his queen Ahmose-Nefertari became its divine patrons during 
its later history. The site lies between the two royal valleys and behind Gurnet Murai, the 
first range of hills of the Theban west-bank mountain. The village was situated in this 
locale for security and control by the royal necropolis authorities. Starting with Tuthmose 
I, special precautions were taken to protect the locale and the work on the royal tomb, as 
Ineni's autobiography records. The village was walled and guarded, and its houses were 
laid out along a central street, as block units of several rooms each. Houses of the village 
foremen and scribe were larger, and were situated at the entrance and exit of the 
surrounding wall. 

All of the villagers' needs were provided by the royal government, from grains to 
meat, fish, vegetables, water and firewood, as they were not expected to perform any 
agricultural labor. The workmen received their pay in grain and commodities on a 
monthly basis, and all their tools and other equipment were government-supplied also. 
Damaged and worn tools were collected for replacement by the scribe and foremen. The 
workers spent eight days of the ten-day Egyptian week camped near their work site in the 
Valley of the Kings, while work on the king's tomb was in progress. The scribe, 

Entries A-Z 293 

appointed by the vizier, kept a daily record of attendance at the work site, and also of 
absences. Absences were permitted for illness, for certain religious holidays and for 
certain family problems or celebrations. In addition, they also received days off during 
major religious festivals, such as the Opet Feast of Amen in Thebes. 

The working day on the tomb occupiedroughly the daylight hours, and in deeper 
stages of the work, candles were issued. For work purposes, the crew was divided into a 
right and left side, each with its own foreman and assistant. Each crew worked its 
respective side of the tomb walls. The workers included quarrymen, plasterers, and the 
more skilled outline draftsmen and painters. These artisans laid out the drawings of the 
scenes and their accompanying inscriptions, which the painters then finished. Each 
workman was responsible for his government-issued tools. Every "weekend" and for 
holidays, the workmen returned to the village, where their families resided. The village 
personnel included a carpenter and a physician. 

During their free time, villagers were able to make coffins and other funerary objects 
for sale to outside people, thus supplementing their incomes. They also could work on 
their own family tombs, located in the hills just above the village. Outside the village, 
there were several shrines to deities, some built by them, others built by the government. 
The more prosperous villagers owned various small properties around the village. All this 
meant that the village functioned as a somewhat specialized economic unit. Because of 
their pay and supplemental income, some villagers had private property concerns. Like 
any other village or town, Deir el-Medina had its own local court to adjudicate local legal 
matters. The court was constituted of the village heads, foremen and highest ranked 
workmen. The court sat on an ad hoc basis and could hear local disputes over property 
and exchanges, and also register deeds of conveyance of property and hear complaints 
about the conduct of individuals. When more serious cases arose, involving theft from a 
tomb, shrine or other government property, the court referred the case to the vizier's court 
sitting in the city of Thebes. 

Additionally, if a particularly sensitive case arose, such as a workman accusing a 
foreman, or foreman's relative, of theft, appeal could be made to the oracle. The oracle 
consisted of the statues of the village's founders, that on festival occasions were paraded 
around the village by bearers of the divine barks in which the image rested. The queries 
were framed in "yes" or "no" format, and evidently, movements of the bark's bearers 
were interpreted as responses by the deity. Thus the oracle served as a valuable release 
mechanism for tensions that might arise in the village. No one, not even a foreman or 
scribe, could contest an oracular decision, though some individuals tried by consulting 
other oracles; the force of religion backed the oracular decisions. 

During Akhenaten's reign, the village was closed and transferred to Akhetaten (Tell 
el-Amarna), the new capital. Horemheb refounded the village at Deir el-Medina for the 
work on his own sizable tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The Ramesside pharaohs who 
followed enlarged the village, as they added tombs in the Valley of the Queens to the 
workload of the village. During Seti I's reign, the long reign of Ramesses II, and on into 
Merenptah's reign, the village operated smoothly and efficiently under competent, honest 
scribes and foremen. The recently rediscovered K.V. 5, the tomb of Ramesses IPs sons, 
exhibits their excellent work. Troubles began after Merenptah's reign, when Amenmesses 
usurped the throne from Seti II, the intended successor. He removed the last vizier 
appointed by Merenptah and installed his own man. Soon after the start of work on 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 294 

Amenmesses' tomb (KV 10), a village crisis erupted. An orphaned boy, Pa-neb, began to 
threaten his father-by-adoption, Neferhotep. When Neferhotep filed a complaint to the 
vizier, Pa-neb filed a counter-complaint, and was successful. Emboldened, Pa-neb 
continued with his threats, and probably murdered Neferhotep. Next, Pa-neb took five of 
Neferhotep's servants, and handed them over to Seti IPs new vizier as a bribe to secure 
the foreman's post and was again successful. 

Under Pa-neb's tenure, the village endured a turbulent period. There was a series of 
court cases arising from crimes committed during the war between Amenmesses and Seti 
II. Worse yet, Pa-neb began to pilfer stone from the king's tomb and to divert workmen 
to build his own family tomb near the village. Pa-neb also misappropriated workmen in 
other ways, for example, employing them to feed his ox. Next he started to persecute the 
members of the family of Neferhotep, the slain foreman. When Seti II died and was 
buried, Pa-neb entered the royal tomb after it had been sealed; he also began to rob tombs 
of some of the village workmen. Then he began to rape the wives of certain workmen, 
while his son raped their daughters. All these deeds were recorded by Amennakht, 
Neferhotep's brother. So long as the bribe-taking vizier, Pareemhab, was in office, 
Amennakht dared not file the complaint. Siptah, who succeeded Seti II, appointed a new 
vizier, f- 01- ', a grandson of Ramesses II. Under this respected vizier, Amennakht filed the 
complaint; f^'brought Pa-neb and his son to trial. Pa-neb and his son were demoted and 
sent to labor for the rest of their days in the quarries of the Wadi Hammamat. 

Under Queen Tawosret and the early 20th Dynasty rulers Sethnakht and Ramesses III, 
the village returned to smooth, tranquil life, and the work quality on the royal tombs 
improved markedly. Ramesses III kept the workmen busy with his own tomb, and with 
others for his queen and for several sons in the Valley of the Queens. Later in Ramesses 
Ill's reign, another crisis struck the village; Ramesses III had difficulty supplying grain to 
the village on the monthly schedule. Desperate, the villagers appealed to their officials, 
laid down their tools and went on strike. Though discouraged, they marched out of the 
village, and went down to the administrative headquarters, demanding to see the vizier. 
Finally, the vizier heard their appeal, and promised to release some grain stored in the 
funerary temples to them, and they returned to work. Under Ramesses IV, the royal 
administration gave up trying to support the village, and turned over its administration to 
the High Priest of Amen in Thebes. Ramesses IV doubled the size of the work force, as 
he ambitiously tried to speed up work on his tomb, but his reign was short. Later in the 
mid-20th Dynasty, the workmen's labor was halted because of marauding Libyans in the 

Under Ramesses VI- VIII, grain prices rose sharply. With the attending hardship, some 
people on the west bank now turned to tomb-robbing, starting with the tombs of the 
nobility. Under Ramesses IX, the mayor of the east bank at Thebes received a report from 
two scribes on the west bank of the robbery of a royal tomb. Outraged, he filed a 
complaint before the vizier, and the vizier thereupon appointed a commission to 
investigate the claims. A late Middle Kingdom tomb of a king was indeed found violated. 
A gang of robbers was apprehended and confessions were wrung from them under 
duress. They admitted robbing the Middle Kingdom tomb and the commission found the 
other royal tombs unviolated. They noted that most private tombs had been violated, and 
their mummies lay strewn over the hills. 

Entries A-Z 295 

Under Ramesses XI, a rebellion erupted in Thebes and the rebels drove out the High 
Priest of Amen, who fled. Pharaoh called upon the Viceroy of Nubia with his army to 
restore order, and the viceroy, Pianchs.y,complied. The High Priest was restored, and trials 
of all sorts were instituted. During the rebellion, priests had left their temples, stripping 
their valuables, and the Deir el-Medina villagers had turned to robbing tombs. Now 
caught with the stolen goods, the village of Deir el-Medina was shut down. The 
authorities transferred its people to Ramesses Ill's funerary temple enclosure at Medinet 
Habu. Work on the tomb of Ramesses XI ground to a halt. The Deir el-Medina village 
had seen its final days; its people eventually merged into the west bank Theban populace. 

See also 

law; New Kingdom, overview; Tell el-Amarna, city; Thebes, Valley of the Kings; 
Thebes, Valley of the Queens 

Further reading 

Bierbrier, M.L. 1984. The Tomb Builders of the Pharaohs. New York. 
Cerny, J. 1973. Community of Workmen at Thebes in the Ramesside Period (BdE 50). Cairo. 
Lesko, L.H., ed. 1994. Pharaoh's Workers: The Villagers of Deir el Medina. Ithaca, NY. 
Ventura, R. 1986. Living in a City of the Dead (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 69). Gottingen. 



The only hard data to estimate population, when written sources are unavailable, are the 
surface areas of contemporary settlements. Beyond that one can suggest models, based on 
explicit assumptions. "Reconstructions" over time are therefore no more than 
interpretations that may serve a heuristic purpose when overviewing the historical 
ensemble of change. For Dynastic Egypt even the information on settlement sizes is 
sparse, because of the sprawl of modern towns, and the tendency of traditional 
archaeology to excavate monumental buildings rather than to test residential areas. 
Furthermore, nineteenth-century excavators simply stripped away younger occupation 
traces from such monuments without making any records. 

For Early Dynastic to Old Kingdom times, the following settlement areas are available 
(excluding temple enclosures): Memphis, 31ha; Hierakonpolis, 5ha; Elkab, 9ha; Kom el- 
Hisn, over 6ha; Elephantine, 1.6ha; Abydos, over lha. For the Middle Kingdom, there are 
Elephantine, 3.5ha, and Lahun, 12ha. For the New Kingdom, the northern capital was 
either Pi-Ramesses (Tell ed-Dab'a), 350ha, or Tanis, 105ha, while the southern capital, 
Luxor, exceeded 280ha. The short-lived capital at Tell el-Amarna expanded across 
380ha, but had a very low density. Other New Kingdom towns were either intermediate 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 296 

in size (Hermopolis, lOOha; Memphis, more than 79ha), or much smaller, e.g. Tell el- 
Yahudiya with 13.7ha. During the Late period and Graeco-Roman times, the largest 
provincial centers were in the order of 85-170ha, intermediate provincial towns, 25- 
65ha, and smaller provincial capitals, 8-15ha. 

Converting such spatial dimensions into population numbers involves difficult 
assumptions. In 1882, six Upper Egyptian cities had a population density of 3,000 
persons per hectare (after adjusting for a 16 percent undercount), with relatively tightly 
packed, two-story or three-story buildings. That is probably applicable to most New 
Kingdom and Late period cities, but Old Kingdom towns such as Hierakonpolis had 
spacious courtyards or gardens, and were mainly single-storied. Here, a density of 200 
per hectare seems generous. On this basis, cautious estimates can be offered for town 
populations at different times. 

For the Old Kingdom, Memphis by this method would have had 6,000 inhabitants, 
with perhaps 1,000-2,000 in the larger provincial towns, and as few as 250 in their 
smaller counterparts. With some forty provinces (nomes), and assuming that half of these 
had capitals with an average population of 1,500, it can be posited that only 35,000- 
40,000 people lived in places with more than 1,000 inhabitants. By standards of Early 
Bronze Age Palestine, this was a decidedly rural society. 

That picture had changed by New Kingdom times, with close to 85,000 in Luxor, 
perhaps 100,000 in Pi-Ramesses, but a maximum of only 31,000 in Tanis, its successor. 
Since the size and role of these capitals varied over time, the combined population of the 
northern and southern metropoles is best assessed at no more than 125,000. Major 
provincial centers may have had 15,000-30,000 inhabitants, with perhaps fifteen places 
in that category, making about 300,000. Data for another perhaps twenty-five smaller 
provincial capitals are sparse, but 125,000 can serve as a working figure, to estimate an 
urban population of up to 550,000 for the early Ramesside period (19th Dynasty). 

For the later periods, there may have been ten large provincial cities with 25,000 to 
50,000 people, another fifteen with 7,500-25,000, and at least twenty-five with 2,500- 
5,000 or so. That would total 600,000-650,000, plus the estimate of over 300,000 for the 
capital, Alexandria (first century BC), by Diodorus (17.52.6), making close to one 
million urban Egyptians. Possibly based on actual data, Diodorus (1.31.8) also gives a 
figure of seven million for the total population. That figure, and the size classes of 
provincial towns estimated here, closely approximate those of the adjusted census of 
1882, if the new, hegemonic entrepot of Alexandria is omitted, to leave Cairo as the 
single primate city: 7.65 million for Egypt, with 880,000 people in towns over 15,000. 
During the first century BC, an estimate for towns over 15,000 would be in the order of 
800,000. Diodorus 's seven million figure therefore seems reasonable. 

Assuming a similar urban ratio, early Ramesside total population would have been 
roughly half that of the first century BC, i.e. about 3.5 million. A range of 3.0-3.5 million 
for circa 1250 BC gives a reasonable order of magnitude. Estimating Old Kingdom 
population is far more difficult, because of the limited nucleated settlement. Herodotus 
(2.177) gives 20,000 inhabited places for the sixth century BC, remarkably close to the 
18,000 of 1882. That serves as a caution in regard to inferring national population size 
from the paltry urban sum. An estimate must balance the labor forces necessary to build 
the pyramids with the inference of the Hekanakht letters (circa 2002 BC) that half of the 

Entries A-Z 297 

floodplain was either in pasture or fallow. Something in the order of 1.5 million is no 
more than an educated guess. 

The hypothetical progression, in the absence of adequate data for the Middle 
Kingdom, posits three successive peaks of perhaps 1.5 million circa 2500 BC, 3.0-3.5 
million circa 1250 BC, and close to 7.0 million circa 50 BC. Major population growth 
must be assumed in Egypt during the centuries prior to the mid-lst Dynasty; toward the 
end of the 2nd Dynasty, the population seems to have dipped, perhaps reflecting a 30 
percent decline in flood volume. Demographic retraction can be assumed during (a) the 
political chaos of the First Intermediate Period, (b) the high flood disasters of the late 
12th and 13th Dynasties, followed by the political impotence of the Hyksos period (15th- 
16th Dynasties), and (c) the collapse of the New Kingdom and its aftermath. A potential 
factor to estimate decline is suggested by medieval Islamic trends. In the Fayum the 
number of villages and towns increased from 66 in 1094, to 156 circa 1250, and 164 in 
1290, then fell to 144 circa 1320, even before the Black Death, and 97 as reported circa 
1375. This particular proxy suggests a decline of 41 percent in response to 
mismanagement and epidemic, similar to the 38 percent decrease in cultivated area. A 
comparable decline of 35-40 percent can be suggested circa 2950-2750, 2350-2100, 
1800-1600 and 1150-950 BC. 

See also 

Abydos, North; Alexandria; Canaanites; Elephantine; Elkab; Hierakonpolis; Hyksos; 
Kom el-Hisn; Memphis; nome structure; subsistence and diet in Dynastic Egypt; Tanis 
(San el-Hagar); Tell ed-Dab'a, Second Intermediate Period; Tell el-Amarna, city; Tell el- 

Further reading 

Baer, G. 1968.UrbanizationinEgypt, 1820-1907. In The Beginning of Modernization in the Middle 

East, W.R.Polk and R.L.Chambers, eds, 155-69. Chicago. 
Butzer, K.W. 1976. Early Hydraulic Civilization in Egypt. Chicago. 

. 1980. Civilizations: organisms or systems? American Scientist 68:44-58. 

. 1984. Siedlungsgeographie (Settlement Geography) . LA 5:924-33. 

Church, R.L., and T.L.Bell. 1988. An analysis of ancient Egyptian settlement patterns using 

location-allocation covering models. Annals, Association of American Geographers 78: 701-14. 
Hassan, F.A. 1990. Population ecology and civilization in ancient Egypt. In Historical Ecology, 

C.Crumley, ed., 155-81. Santa Fe, NM. 
Kemp, B.J. 1989. Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization. London. 
Whitmore, T.M., B.L.Turner, D.L.Johnson, R.W.Kates and T.R.Gottschang. 1990. Long-term 

population change. In The Earth as Transformed by Human Action, B.L. Turner, ed., 25-40. 



Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 298 


Situated on the west bank of the Nile, the metropolis of Dendera (Tentyris in Greek) was 
an important administrative and religious site from the Predynastic period onward (26°08' 
N, 32°40' E). Its most famous remains today, however, date to the last stage of its history 
in the Graeco-Roman period 16 

The site consists of a mudbrick temenos wall (280m on each side), which encloses the 
temple area and is surrounded by several cemeteries. An archaeological survey of the site 
was undertaken in 1897-8 by Flinders Petrie and Charles Rosher. From 1915 to 1918 
systematic excavations were undertaken by Clarence Fischer for the University Museum, 
Philadelphia. Exploration of the First Intermediate Period cemetery also revealed 
Predynastic remains, Graeco-Roman tombs and some tombs of the 17th Dynasty. The 
area west of the great 6th Dynasty mastaba tombs (notably that of Idu) has not been 
excavated. The finds were studied by H.G.Fischer and A.R. Slater. 

Documentation of the Graeco-Roman period rests principally on the accidental 
discoveries made within the temple enclosure of cult artifacts, statues and stelae, now in 
the Cairo Museum, the Louvre (silver vases) and the British Museum (bronze plaques). A 
cemetery of sacred cows and Osiris figurines and the New Kingdom and Late period 
cemeteries have yet to be discovered. The French Archaeological Institute in Cairo has 
made a topographical survey of the enclosure and the necropolis. 

Texts carved in the crypt recount that the temple's foundation charter was written in 
Predynastic times, and was later found during Khufu's reign (4th Dynasty) in a chest in 
the royal palace at Memphis. The temple was restored during the reign of Pepi I (6th 
Dynasty) and was renovated by Tuthmose III (18th Dynasty). The festivals at Dendera 
con form to those in a decree of Amenemhat I (12th Dynasty). In fact, traces of 
construction attributable to these kings, with the exception of Khufu, have been found in 
the enclosure. The earliest monuments still in situ in the temple enclosure date to the 
reign of Nectanebo I (30th Dynasty). Evidence of earlier construction is provided by 
reused blocks inscribed with the names of the following kings: Mentuhotep II, 
Amenemhat I and Senusret I of the Middle Kingdom; Ahmose, Amenhotep I, Tuthmose 
III, Amenhotep II, Tuthmose IV, Amenhotep III, Ramesses II and Ramesses III of the 
New Kingdom; and Shabako and Shebitku of the 25th Dynasty. 

The monuments within the temple enclosure at Dendera are summarized below in 
chronological order: 

1 the chapel of Mentuhotep II, now in the atrium of the Cairo Museum, with only the 

foundations in place at Dendera. 

2 the mammisi (birth house) with the sanctuary of Nectanebo I. The vestibule lists the 

names of Ptolemy IX Soter II, Ptolemy X Alexander and Ptolemy XII. A gateway was 
built by Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II. 

3 the chapel of Thoth erected by a scribe of Amen-Re in the reign of Ptolemy I. 

4 the bark chapel of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II built in 122-116 BC. 

5 the small temple of Isis with a wall of Nectanebo I, added to by Ptolemy VI Philometer 

and Ptolemy X Alexander, with reused blocks of Amenemhat I and Ramesses II. A 
gateway has the name of Augustus. 

Entries A-Z 299 

6 the temple of Hathor. Construction was begun on July 1654 BC with temple services 

beginning in February, 29 BC. The foundation of the pronaos (porch) was begun in 
the reign of Tiberius and the walls were decorated with the names of Caligula, 
Claudius and Nero. 

7 north gate from the reigns of Domitian and Trajan. 

8 Roman mammisi from the reigns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius. 

9 wells, sacred lake. 

Figure 25 The temple at Dendera 

10 sanitarium. 

11 Roman cisterns. 

12 Coptic basilica. 

The Hathor temple inscriptions were studied by Diimichen (1865-75), Mariette (circa 
1879), and Heinrich Brugsch (circa 1880); systematic publication of the inscriptions was 
undertaken by Emile Chassinat, followed by Francois Daumas (1934-87) and is being 
continued by Sylvie Cauville. The mammisi were studied and published by Francois 
Daumas (1959). The publication of the temple of Isis is in progress and will be followed 
by that of the north gate and the monuments situated outside the enclosure wall (i.e. the 
temple of Ptolemy VI Philopater and the gateway of Horus). Architectural studies are 
being undertaken by Zignani of the Hathor temple and by Boutros of the basilica. 

A structure whose axis is aligned with the heliacal rising of the star Sirius was 
constructed during the reign of Ramesses II, therefore preceding the building of Ptolemy 
XII by some 1,200 years. Astronomical research has demonstrated that the famous 
Dendera zodiac relief was conceived during the summer of 50 BC; it reveals that 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 300 

Egyptian priests had a more advanced knowledge of astronomy than had previously been 
known. The decoration of the Osiris chapels took place over three years, from 50-48 BC, 
and their inauguration took place on December 28, 47 BC (the 26th day of Khoiak), the 
day of a zenithal full moon, a conjunction that takes place only once every 1,480 years. 

The temple of Hathor does not differ appreciably from the plan of the Edfu temple, the 
most complete cultic monument of the Graeco-Roman period. This plan consists of a 
sanctuary, chapels and great liturgical halls alongside cult rooms to store the equipment 
and offerings necessary for the daily ritual or various festivals. The architectural 
originality of the temple of Hathor resides in the majestic crypts contrived in the 
thickness of the walls and on three levels. The underground crypts served as a sort of 
foundation for the temple. Inside these hidden spaces were stored about 160 statues, 
which ranged from 22.5 to 210.0cm in height. The oldest statues, made of wood, were 
buried in an almost inacessible crypt. 

The gods worshipped at Dendera are organized into two triads, one with Hathor and 
another with Isis. Hathor is the feminine conception of the royal and solar power. Isis is 
the wife and mother, who reigns in her own temple in the southern part of the enclosure. 
Horus is the father of Harsomtous, to whom Hathor gives birth in the mammisi. Osiris is 
evidently the posthumous father of Harsiesis, whom Isis looks after. Hathor, the queen of 
the temple, is honored under diverse aspects easily identifiable by her names and epithets 
and by the iconographic depictions. Several divine entities were developed by the priests 
to express all the subtlety of their theology. Thus, there coexist four forms of Hathor and 
three forms of Harsomtous. 

Around these two triads are arranged deities used as representations of religious 
themes and ideas or as representations of places. These include (1) aspects of the goddess 
Hathor as both a vengeful goddess and a protectress (Bastet, Sekhmet, Mut and Tefnut); 
(2) deities of the Delta (Wadjet, Hathor Nebethetepet and Iousaas); and (3) deities of 
Memphis or Heliopolis (Re-Horakhty and Ptah). Re-Horakhty is the father of Hathor and 
the texts state that he created Dendera as a replacement for Heliopolis; the Egyptian term 
for Dendera (Iwnet) is the feminine form of the term for Heliopolis (Iwnw). 

Each part of the temple has a mythological context, which guarantees the permanence 
of the divine presence. The mammisi celebrate the divine birth of the next generation nine 
months after the "sacred marriage" between Hathor of Dendera and Horus of Edfu. The 
bark chapel built beside the sacred lake was the location of the famous navigation festival 
in which the return of Hathor from Nubia was celebrated. The six Osiris chapels on the 
roof of the Hathor temple were used for the celebration of the resurrection of Osiris in the 
month of Khoiak, serving as images of the divine tomb for the rest of the year. Numerous 
festivals from the national calendar were also celebrated, such as the first day of the new 
year. From the evidence of the reliefs, the festivals honoring the most important local 
deities, Hathor and Harsomtous, had the most numerous and most elaborate ritual 

See also 

Edfu; Late and Ptolemaic periods, overview; pantheon 

Entries A-Z 301 

Further reading 

Aubourg, E. 1995. La date de conception du Zodiaque du temple d'Hathor a Dendera. BIFAO 

Cauville, S. 1990. Dendera. Cairo. 

. 1992. Le temple d'Isis a Dendera. Bulletin de la Societe francais d'egyptologie 123: 31-48. 

. 1997a. Les chapelles osiriennes, 5 vols. Cairo. 

. 1997b. Le Zodiaque d'Osiris. Louvain. 

Daumas, F. 1958. Les mammisis des temples egyptiens. Paris 
Fischer, H.R. 1968. Dendera in the Third Millennium. New York. 

Slater, A.R. 1974. The Archaeology of Dendereh in the First Intermediate Period. Ann Arbor, MI. 


Denon, Dominique Vivant, Baron de 

Art connoisseur, artist, writer and diplomat for France under Louis XV and XVI, Vivant 
Denon (1747-1825) achieved early literary and social success even though he was born 
in the provinces, at Givry. Despite his name being proscribed, he survived the French 
revolution to serve illustriously under Napoleon Bonaparte, to whom he was introduced 
by Josephine. Selected to accompany Napoleon's Egyptian campaign, Denon became its 
most energetic and illustrious recorder. 

Overseeing careful measurements of monuments and copying inscriptions as well as 
sketching, Denon may well be considered as the first scientific Egyptologist, while 
Napoleon, through his vision, was the founder of the field. Recording went on in the 
Delta and Upper Egypt, often in the harshest of conditions and even under enemy fire as 
the French General Desaix pursued the Mameluke troops upriver. Denon's drawings are 
the only surviving records of some monuments, such as the lovely temple of Amenhotep 
III on Elephantine Island at Aswan, which was torn down in 1822. 

Denon acquired many Egyptian antiquities and later wrote an account of his sojourn 
on the Nile, A Journey to Lower and Upper Egypt (1802), published in two volumes with 
141 plates. One hundred and fifty plates were published from his drawings in the multi- 
volume opus of the Napoleonic expedition (Description de I'Egypte), but his own book, 
which appeared first, instigated the profound effect of Napoleon's expedition on 
European scholarship and popular appreciation. Translated into English and German, the 
book has had some forty editions. 

Appointed Director General of Museums by Napoleon in 1804, Denon accompanied 
Napoleon's campaigns in Austria, Spain and Poland, not only sketching on the 
battlefields but also advising on the choice of artistic spoils from vanquished cities. Thus 
he had a major role in forming the Louvre collections and making Paris a major artistic 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 302 

See also 

Napoleon Bonaparte and the Napoleonic expedition 

Further reading 

Dawson, W.R., and E.P.Uphill. 1995. Who Was Who in Egyptology, 3rd edn, M.L.Bierbrier. 

Nowinski, J. 1970. Baron Dominique Vivant Denon (1745-1825): Hedonist and Scholar in a 

Period of Transition. Rutherford, NJ. 


domestic architecture, evidence from tomb 


The results of archaeological excavations in ancient settlements are our primary source of 
information about domestic architecture in ancient Egypt. Generally this information is 
limited to the ground plans of houses. Further information can be obtained from the study 
of models and representations of houses in tomb scenes. 

Middle Kingdom models 

Two types of models are known: (1) the so-called "soul houses," made of fired clay, 
originally painted, and (2) models made of painted wood. Both types are part of the 
funerary equipment of the Middle Kingdom. 

Soul houses were usually the only funerary equipment for simple pit-graves in Middle 
Kingdom cemeteries, mainly in Middle Egypt. They were placed on the surface of the 
grave in the open air where they functioned as an offering table, replacing one of stone. 
This is clearly indicated by the addition of a spout to release libations and by the food 
offerings modeled in clay on the surface, found even on full three-dimensional house 
models. The idea that the soul house should give shelter to the soul of the deceased is no 
longer considered valid. In fact, only a few of the known specimens include the 
representation of a house or parts of one. 

Miniature architectural elements, such as a false door, columned portico or canopied 
seat for the statue of the deceased, are modeled in the rear of the basin-shaped offering 
table and are a substitute for a rock-cut funerary chapel. As in the real tombs of this 
period, elements of domestic architecture were incorporated; in some cases these include 
the more or less complete representation of a house. In such soul houses, the portico of 

Entries A-Z 303 

the tomb is transformed into the portico of a Middle Kingdom house, as known from the 
site of Lahun. Inner rooms are sometimes represented in detail by partition walls. Doors 
and windows are indicated by openings or incisions suggesting wooden lattices. Some 
ceramic models show a group of three openings in the front wall, comparable to those in 
a wooden model from the tomb of Meket-Re at Deir el-Bahri (see below). The rim of the 
offering table forms the enclosure wall of the court in front of the house. In the court are 
models of trees, wooden canopy poles, water jars and other household furnishings, which 
are combined with the models of funerary offerings: still the most important symbolic 

A prominent feature in almost all models is the stairway leading up to the roof along 
one of the side walls of the court. The roof is surrounded by a parapet and in this space 
are various structures, from simple protective walls to what appears to be a full upper 
story. Roof ventilators shaped like half-domes, which give air to the rooms below, are 
represented in most of the models. The increased number of columns on the upper floor, 
as well as the recessed upper portico, indicate a light structure of wood which could not 
be represented more appropriately in the coarse clay of the models. 

Wooden models had the function of providing the deceased with material goods in his 
afterlife and were deposited in more elaborate rock-cut tombs near the burial or in 
separate chambers. Granaries and different crafts, including their architectural setting, are 
represented in many models, but models with an actual residence are rare. In a model of 
grazing cattle from a tomb at Deir el-Bersha, a somewhat simplified house is suggested 
by a tower-like structure. Misinterpretation of evidence such as this has led to the notion 
of a multistoried town house. 

The only other evidence of domestic archi tecture is found in two almost identical 
models from the tomb of Meket-Re. While emphasis is given to an enclosed court of a 
garden with a pool surrounded by sycamore trees, the house itself is rendered in a very 
reduced manner by a portico with a double row of columns and a rear wall. On both sides 
of this wall two doors and one window are indicated by carved and painted designs. 
Archaeological evidence from Lahun and other Middle Kingdom sites shows that these 
openings represent the tripartite core of a Middle Kingdom house, consisting of a central 
room flanked by a bedroom and another side room. 

The roof construction of the model's portico is rendered in minute detail. Three water 
spouts seem to be inappropriate elements, as hyperarid climatic conditions had been 
established in Upper Egypt since the Old Kingdom. Possibly the spouts served a 
symbolic function in keeping the pool supplied with water. The model of a small pavilion 
of Meket-Re is also provided with spouts, and another possibility is that the roofs were 
kept wet for cooling purposes. 

The purpose of Meket-Re 's model court was to provide him with the pleasant 
environment of garden and pool and the cool shade of the portico. An exact 
representation of his residence seemed unnecessary, as he now resided in his tomb, his 
"house of eternity." 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 304 

5 SO 10 W +3 Sficra 

Figure 26 Wooden model of house and 
garden from the tomb of Meket-Re at 
Deir el-Bahri (from H.E.Winlock) 

Tomb scenes 

Possibly the same explanation can be used to demonstrate why domestic architecture is 
rarely represented in tomb scenes. Only nineteen examples are known from the Theban 
necropolis, dating to the 18th and 19th Dynasties. In the tombs at Tell el-Amarna there 
are many representations of architecture, but they generally depict the royal palace or the 
royal domain. Only the Tell el-Amarna tombs of Meri-Re II and Mahu include their own 
houses in their tomb scenes. 

Houses in tomb scenes are only the background for scenes showing the tomb owner 
engaged in various activities or funerary rites. Often they are a component of a garden or 
country estate. They are rendered in plan or elevation, or a combination of both, but 
section drawings in the modern sense are not known. Tomb paintings do not show an 

Entries A-Z 305 

actual house in its exact dimensions, but the artists took liberties to choose certain typical 
elements which they thought appropriate to convey the idea of a house. 

The large painting of Djehuty-Nefer's house from one of his two Theban tombs (TT 
104) has been misinterpreted as a section drawing of a multi-storied town house. In fact, 
it shows the modified plan of a high official's house, with the private apartments omitted 
and the elements rearranged by the artist. Egyptian artists used what could be called a 
"collapsed side view," where the vertical elevation of each room is fitted within the plan, 
also depicted vertically. Thus the plan, elevation, decoration and other furnishings were 
all included in one representation. Considering these conventions, Djehuty-Nefer's house 
was really a one-story structure with a court, reception hall, central hall, common rooms 
and private quarters. This type of house is well known from Tell el-Amarna, and 
Djehuty-Nefer's tomb painting demonstrates that it already existed in the early 18th 

In Djehuty-Nefer's other tomb (TT 80), a house is depicted reduced to elementary 
features. The upper part with the large window might represent a loggia on the roof, as is 
also indicated by the receding step in the facade on the left side. In another Theban tomb 
scene (TT 334), the simplified plan of a house is represented. Clearly shown are the three 
zones of the plan, each with increasing privacy: (1) reception hall, (2) central hall and (3) 
private rooms. The positions of the doors correspond to archaeological evidence: the 
reception hall precedes a central hall with an axial door, behind which are private 

The house depicted in the tomb of Mosi (TT 254) might have two stories, although it 
is obvious from the large number of small windows in the bottom row, representing the 
clerestory windows of the central hall, and from the presence of two entrance doors, that 
the artist wanted to show as many openings as possible. The top of the walls is protected 
against intruders by a fence of palm fronds, as is still used in Egypt today. Such a 
precaution would not be necessary on top of a two-story house. The trees in front of the 
house are protected by round brick structures with numerous openings for ventilation, a 
device which is also still used in Egypt. 

The house depicted in TT 96 has a combination of two elevations, one with two 
windows and one with two doors. The upper 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 306 

Figure 27 Representation of Djehuty- 
Nefer's house in his tomb in western 
Thebes (TT 104) and its interpretation 
(from H.A.Assad) 

representation shows a chapel consisting of three identical rooms. The buildings are part 
of a vast estate with gardens and trees. 

The same technique of representing two elevations in one seems to be applied in a 
scene from TT 23. What at first glance appears to be a two-story house is probably the 

Entries A-Z 307 

representation of two elevations of a one-story house, according to the arrangement of 
trees and the broken line behind the female figure. 

Two roof ventilators, consisting of rectangular openings in the flat house roof with 
slanting covers, are depicted in TT 90. The same device (malkaf, in Arabic) is still used 
today in Egypt to catch the cool northern breeze. Similar devices are shown above the 
royal bedroom in representations of the royal palace in tombs at Tell el-Amarna. 

Models and tomb scenes help to corroborate archaeological evidence and broaden our 
information about domestic architecture. From such evidence additional information is 
obtained on the size and shape of windows, columns, decoration and devices to cool the 
house interior (porticoes, roof ventilators, position of windows). In tomb scenes trees and 
gardens are invariably linked to the house. Models give us information about the 
importance of roof space as a place of rest and recreation, and were accordingly equipped 
with protective walls, canopies and loggias. The question of a full second story or even 
higher elevations must remain open, however. 

See also 

Deir el-Bahri, Meket-Re tomb; Deir el-Bersha; Lahun, town; Tell el-Amarna, city; Tell 
el-Amarna, nobles' tombs 

Further reading 

Assaad, H.A. 1983. The house of Thutnefer and Egyptian architectural drawings. The Ancient 

World VI (l-4):3-20. 
Badawy, A. 1966. A History of Egyptian Architecture: The First Intermediate Period, the Middle 

Kingdom, and the Second Intermediate Period: 12-19. Berkeley, CA. 
. 1968. A History of Egyptian Architecture: The Empire (the New Kingdom): 15-35. Berkeley, 

Roik, E. 1988. Das altagyptische Wohnhaus und seine Darstellung im Flachbild. Frankfurt. 
Winlock, H.E. 1955. Models of Daily Life in Ancient Egypt. Cambridge, MA. 



Dorginarti was an island fortress located at the northern end of the Second Cataract in 
Sudanese Nubia (21°51' N, 31°14' E), a site excavated by the Oriental Institute of the 
University of Chicago in 1964, as part of the High Dam Campaign led by UNESCO. 

The original construction of the fortress and its main phases of occupation were 
originally thought to date to the Middle Kingdom or New Kingdom phases represented at 
other fortresses in Lower Nubia, though the archaeological materials uncovered at the site 
were different from those expected. A recent study demonstrates that Dorginarti's pottery 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 308 

and small artifacts are similar to types found in Egyptian and Sudanese contexts, ranging 
in date from the Third Intermediate Period through the 27th Dynasty in Egypt. Therefore, 
the fortress was probably occupied between the mid-seventh century BC and the end of 
the fifth century BC. Its original occupation may have begun a century earlier. 

During this period Lower Nubia was thought to have been unpopulated, due to low 
Nile floods and its position as a buffer zone between two hostile kingdoms. However, the 
textual and archaeological records show that there were adequate Nile floods in the first 
half of the first millennium BC; also, the evident prosperity of the 25th and 26th 
Dynasties argues against consistently low Niles. Therefore, if there was a decline in the 
occupation of Lower Nubia, this would have been caused by the lessening of trade and 
diplomatic activity as a result of strained relations between Egypt and Kush with the rise 
of Saite power in Egypt (26th Dynasty). 

Evidence indicates that there was activity in Lower Nubia during at least parts of this 
period. Pottery and artifacts dating to the first half of the first millennium BC have 
recently been identified at sites between the First and Third Cataracts, and beyond. There 
is also evidence that the area was resettled earlier in the Meroitic period (after circa 270 
BC) than has previously been thought. Therefore, the supposed gap in the occupation of 
Lower Nubia during the first millennium BC has closed considerably, and the existence 
of a first millennium BC fortress on Dorginarti is not an anomaly. 

The fortress 

The fortress interior was divided into three main areas. Buildings were also constructed 
outside the fort walls in the bay at the southwestern corner, as well as to the south of the 
northwestern corner buttress. The West Sector contained garrison quarters, storage 
facilities, workshops and the main fortress gateway, which led out to a roadway. A north- 
south wall divided the western half from both the Central Sector's "Official's Residence" 
and the East Sector's storage areas and River Gate. 

The main building of the Central Sector, called the "Official's Residence," underwent 
two major building phases before the latest (Level II) construction. In an earlier (Level 
III) building, a number of Ramesside blocks (19th-20th Dynasties) were reused for door 
sills, jambs and lintels. They may have been procured from across the river at Buhen, 
where building activity by both Ramesses I and Ramesses IV is attested in inscriptions. 

Stratigraphy shows that there was a period of abandonment after a fire in the central 
sector and before the construction of the latest fortification, consisting of retaining walls 
of a square, buttressed platform with corner towers. At a later time, some of the bays in 
the outer faces were partly filled with stone. 

Entries A-Z 309 

OUTM OATi r.Kt> 

i« ufT(A| 

Figure 28 Plan of the Nubian fort at 
Dorginarti, Levels III and IV 

Material remains 

The garrison soldiers and staff who lived in the fort left behind ceramic vessels and small 
artifacts of East Greek, Levantine and Egyptian manufacture. Also, handmade pots of 
Sudanese tradition and stone arrowheads excavated here indicate that there were also 
soldiers or staff from regions south of Egypt. 

Most of the pottery and small artifacts from Dorginarti resemble remains from sites in 
Egypt dating to the late-Kushite and Saite periods (circa 700-525 BC), and the Persian 
period (circa 525-400 BC). Also, numerous crucible fragments with deposits on the 
interiors, as well as the remains of two tuyeres and two fragments from possible pot- 
bellows, resemble the metallurgical evidence from Saite fortresses in the Delta and (late 
Iron II) fortresses in southern Palestine. The original levels of the fortress (IV and III) 
were occupied some time in the late eighth and seventh centuries BC. 

The pottery types that were found in association with the later Level II terrace can 
perhaps all be dated to the second half of the sixth and the fifth centuries BC. East Greek 
and Phoenician amphorae fragments were brought into the fortress either at the end of the 
Saite period or during the Persian period. The Phoenician amphorae fragments are 
particularly numerous. 


Throughout earlier pharaonic periods, Egypt sent trade, diplomatic and military 
expeditions to the south, along both the river and the Western Desert routes of Lower and 
Upper Nubia. The merchandise, gifts, booty and tribute which they acquired were hauled 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 310 

down the Nile and along the desert routes from Nubia or from elsewhere in Sudan and 
Ethiopia. These goods included gold, copper, semi-precious and quarried stones, and 
cattle, all of which could be acquired along the Nile or in the deserts and highlands to the 
east and west of the river. Other goods, such as ivory, rare woods, gum, incense, ostrich 
feathers and eggs, animal skins and wild animals, including leopards, monkeys and 
giraffes, were most likely obtained through intermediary traders coming from areas 
farther south. 

During the Kushite, Saite and Persian periods, trade goods from Africa (as well as 
from Kushite people) also appeared in the Near Eastern world beyond Egypt. 
Archaeological and textual evidence shows that movements of populations and goods 
were occurring not only along the Nile River between Egypt and Kush, but also along 
other land and sea routes. The Phoenicians were utilizing the Red Sea during this period, 
and Egyptian and Persian interest in a canal between the Red Sea and the Nile may reflect 
a lucrative sea trade from coastal Ethiopia, Sudan and the Arabian peninsula. 

The Egyptians and Persians (as well as the Kushites) undoubtedly sought to win 
control of the Lower Nubian routes in order to secure the safe conduct of trade and 
diplomatic expeditions, and to tap the profits of the trade in African luxury materials. The 
fortress on the island of Dorginarti was undoubtedly only one of the military outposts on 
the riverine route between Elephantine and the Kushite region. 

See also 

Late and Ptolemaic periods, overview; Nubian forts; Punt; Third Intermediate Period, 

Further reading 

Heidorn, L.A. 1991. The Saite and Persian Period forts at Dorginarti. In Egypt in Africa: Nubia 

from Prehistory to Islam, W.V.Davies, ed., 205-19. London. 
. 1992. The fortress of Dorginarti and Lower Nubia during the seventh to fifth centuries B.C. 

Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago. 


Dynastic stone tools 

In the early days of Egyptian archaeology, about one hundred years ago, a detailed 
investigation of lithic technology, raw material procurement and the importance of stone 
tools for ancient Egyptian daily life was never conducted, and there are only some 
preliminary and very superficial reports about Early Dynastic flint-working. 
Unfortunately, most of this material was from tombs, which always contain only the best- 
fashioned tools and stone blanks, so that the deceased could live well in the afterlife. 

Entries A-Z 311 

However, due to an increasing interest in settlements, archaeological activities in Egypt 
have changed during the last two decades. Some very interesting lithic material has now 
been excavated in well-stratified sites, ranging in date from the late Predynastic period to 
the 25th Dynasty. 

For the late Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods, lithic assemblages from three 
settlements are important: Tell el-Fara'in (Buto) and Tell Ibrahim Awad in the Delta, and 
Elephantine (Aswan) at the Nubian border. Also of great importance for this early period 
are the rich flint tools from Hemaka's tomb at North Saqqara (1st Dynasty). For the Old 
Kingdom, the lithic artifacts from Giza and Ain Asil are good examples. For the Middle 
Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period, there are assemblages from Tell ed-Dab'a in 
the Delta and the Nubian fortress of Mirgissa. Undoubtedly, the best example of New 
Kingdom flaked tools is the vast material from Qantir/Pi-Ramesses in the Delta, 
excavated in the city's industrial area. 

Given the large corpus of information, some clear patterns of development are now 
recognizable. One of the most exciting observations is of the different stages of raw 
material extraction and tool preparation, and flint mines are known for all Dynastic 
periods. Studies of the flint working technologies have also been conducted, and a clear 
development can be demonstrated in which the tools became rougher and coarser, from 
late Predynastic times (Nagada III) to the late New Kingdom. 

Beginning with the 1st Dynasty, only well-fashioned stone blanks and finished tools 
were brought into the settlements. Necessary for this were organized mining activities 
and also an effectively organized trade of the blanks and tools, produced in or near the 
settlements of the quarriers and professional flint-knappers. 

It is first important to identify rich and usable flint deposits which were not too far 
from settlements. Fortunately, some ninety years ago the German geologist Blankenhorn 
conducted an extensive geological survey of the Nile Valley and his results are still 
useful. From his information, the main deposits of good workable flint have all been 
located in wadis near the Nile Valley. The most southerly flint source is the mountains 
near Thebes West, which belong to a geological formation of the Eocene (Libyan stage). 
Rich layers of very homogeneous flint nodules of the highest quality can be found here. 
Some small quarries in Thebes West date to the Old and Middle Kingdoms, but the most 
extensive mining activity took place when Thebes was the New Kingdom capital. 
Numerous tombs were excavated then, which also resulted in a high output of flint, 
providing material not only for the local settlements but also for more distant regions, 
such as the Nile Delta and Nubia. 

Early in this century, two more extensive flint sources of the best quality were found 
about 100km south of Cairo, in two tributary wadis on the eastern fringe of the Valley. A 
short survey in 1981 demonstrated that on top of the high terraces of Wadi Sojoor and 
Wadi el-Sheikh, which both belong to an Eocene formation (lower Mokattam stage), 
there are vast dumps from extensive quarrying. Analysis of the stone tools indicates that 
the Wadi Sojoor deposits were mostly mined during Early Dynastic and Old Kingdom 
times. Archaeological evidence from the Wadi el-Sheikh points to mining in late 
Predynastic/ Early Dynastic times, and then later during the New Kingdom, when freshly 
mined flint was traded in the settlements. However, the most extensive quarrying was 
during the Middle Kingdom, when finished blades and knifes were sent to Tell ed-Dab'a 
in the Delta. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 312 

Only one quarry to the northwest of Cairo, in the Cretaceous formation of Abu 
Roasch, is 

Figure 29 Dynastic stone blades, late 
Predynastic to New Kingdom 

lacking in evidence of ancient activity, because it was heavily mined for gunflint in the 
nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This quarry must have supplied much flint to the 
Delta because artifacts made of this characteristic material have been found there in large 
quantities, from late Predynastic times onward. 

Entries A-Z 313 

Stone tool technology in Dynastic times had its roots in late Predynastic flint 
manufacturing, especially that of the Nagada culture. Very high-quality tools were 
produced then, especially the thin ripple-flaked knifes found in elite, (late) Nagada 
culture burials. Bifacially worked knifes were manufactured until the New Kingdom, but 
their form changed and the quality of flaking declined. There were also tool types which 
were used mainly in domestic contexts (scrapers, burins, borers and hafted blades for 
cutting meat). 

Huge blades, up to 20cm long and 3cm wide, have been found in an Early Dynastic 
context. These are the so-called "razor blades," but their 

Table 3 Chronology of tool production in the Near 

Legend : ^— - Eegi^aii^g □£ the Iron *\jge 
| - t-ithic artifact production 

7 7 -i no izif orTrjtion about flint tool production 

OR - Gfftftte Tlf - Turkey CY » Cyprus 

PA h Palestine 5¥ - Syria EG - Egypt IR - Iraq 

Legend : »m==Begining of the Iron Age 
H=Lithic artifact production 
??=no information about flint tool production 
GR=Greece TU=Turky CY=Cyprus 
PA=Palestine SY=Syria EG=Egypt IR=Iraq 

real use is unknown. Undoubtedly, this blade technology originated in Palestine, where 
this technology is first found. All other tools, up to the late Middle Kingdom, were made 
of smaller blades, which tend to get broader and thicker through time, especially the 
different sickle blades. Beginning in the Second Intermediate Period, the cutting edge of 
the sickle blade, which earlier had been retouched only during resharpening, was heavily 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 314 

denticulated, pointing again to a Palestinian origin. Also at this time the type of flint used 
for tools changed and the Egyptian tradition of core flaking tradition ended. In New 
Kingdom times the stone blanks were increasingly replaced by flakes or blades, and the 
tools became more coarse. 

The bifacially worked flint knifes and sickle blades described above are the two most 
important tool groups of Dynastic Egypt, showing a stylistic and functional development 
through time. Their manufacture until the 25th Dynasty can be best explained by their 
high degree of usefulness and low production costs. Examples in Dynastic Egypt of 
borers, burins, axes and arrowheads, however, are rare. 

Why stone tools were used for such a long time in ancient Egypt needs some 
explanation. In contrast to its rich chert resources, Egypt has only very small deposits of 
copper and virtually no tin (for bronze production). This also explains why ancient Egypt 
was not able to play a leading role in metallurgical technologies like its neighbors, 
especially Palestine, which has large deposits of copper. In exchange for metal from 
Palestine and later from Cyprus, Egypt traded gold and cereals, both of which were 
abundantly available in Egypt. Egypt therefore had to import nearly all its copper and tin, 
which greatly limited its distribution to most of the population. Copper/bronze was 
limited in quantity and very expensive, and most metal in Egypt was needed for weapons 
used by the army. The remaining metal would have been distributed among elites. 

The use of stone tools finally ended in Egypt when iron processing began because this 
metal was much cheaper than bronze, and it was also harder. However, this occurred in 
Egypt several hundred years later than in the neighboring countries. 

See also 

Buto (Tell el-Fara'in); Elephantine; metallurgy; natural resources; Neolithic and 
Predynastic stone tools; Qantir/Pi-Ramesses; Saqqara, North, Early Dynastic tombs; Tell 
ed-Dab'a, Second Intermediate Period 

Further reading 

Kromer, K. 1978. Siedlungsfunde aus dem friihen alten Reich in Giseh. Osterreichische 

Ausgrabungen 1971-1975. DOAW 136. 
Midant-Reynes, B. 1985. L'industrie lithique en Egypte: a propos des fouilles de 'Ain-Asil (Oasis 

de Dakhla). BSFE 102:27-43. 
Miller, R. 1983. Lithic technology in East Karnak, Egypt. JSSEA 13:228-36. 
Rosen, S.A. 1983. The Canaanean blade and the Early Bronze Age. IE J 33:15-29. 
Schmidt, K. 1992. Tell Ibrahim Awad: preliminary report on the lithic industries. In The Nile Delta 

in Transition; 4th-3rd Millennium B.C., E.C.M.van den Brink, ed., 79-96. Jerusalem. 
Tillmann, A. 1986. Ein Steinartefaktinventar des Neuen Reiches aus Qantir/Piramesse (Ein 

Vorbericht). Archdologisches Korrespondenzblatt 16:149-55. 
Weisgerber, G. 1987. The ancient chert mines at Wadi el-Sheikh (Egypt). In The Human Uses of 

Flint and Chert, G.Sieveking and M.H. Newcomer, eds, 165-71. Brighton. 


Entries A-Z 315 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 316 

Early Dynastic private tombs 

Private tombs of the 1st and 2nd Dynasties are the most important source of evidence for 
Early Dynastic society because excavations of contemporary settlements are limited. 
Cemeteries with Early Dynastic graves are distributed throughout Egypt, mostly at 
desert-edge locations, although increasing archaeological activity in the Delta has 
revealed new sites, such as Minshat Abu Omar. Non-royal Early Dynastic cemeteries 
usually contain a wide range of burials, from the high status tombs of local officials to the 
simple graves of the ordinary people. Exceptions are the cemeteries of court retainers 
surrounding the royal tombs and funerary palaces at Abydos (which clearly form a 
special class), and the exclusively elite cemeteries in the Memphite region, which served 
the highest state officials. The most important elite cemetery is at North Saqqara, which 
contains an uninterrupted sequence of burials spanning the 1st Dynasty, as well as a large 
number of 2nd and 3rd Dynasty tombs. On the opposite bank of the Nile, the vast Early 
Dynastic cemetery at Helwan, containing over 10,000 tombs, served as the main burial 
ground for the officials and inhabitants of Memphis. 

Within the Early Dynastic period a clear sequence of development in tomb 
architecture is seen. The main factor affecting the design of a tomb was the wealth of its 
owner. Modifications and innovations were introduced first in royal and elite burials, and 
were subsequently adopted by the other sectors of the population. From the beginning of 
the 1st Dynasty, elite tombs were characterized by a large mudbrick superstructure called 
a mastaba, with exterior walls decorated with recessed niches. This style of architecture, 
known as "palace facade," is thought to have imitated the external appearance of the 
royal palace. The facade of the tomb superstructure was plastered, and the niches were 
painted with elaborate patterns, imitating woven mats. During the early 1st Dynasty, the 
burial chamber was a shallow pit roofed with wood. It was surrounded by mudbrick 
storerooms, which housed some of the grave goods. Further storerooms were located in 
the superstructure, which was divided up by cross-walls. Access to the burial chamber 
must have been difficult, and the superstructure could not have been completed until after 

Entries A-Z 317 

the interment. Later, during the reign of Den, an entrance stairway to the burial chamber, 
starting outside the superstructure, was introduced. The resulting threat to security was 
addressed by blocking the stairs at intervals with large limestone slabs (portcullis). 

Toward the end of the 1st Dynasty, tomb design underwent major changes, including 
the adoption of an L-shaped plan for the entrance stairway. Tomb robbing probably 
inspired the tendency to dig tombs more deeply. The focus of the tomb shifted toward the 
substructure, and the storerooms adjoining the burial chamber housed all the grave goods. 
Consequently, the above-ground mastaba was built as a solid mass of mudbrick and 
rubble. The niched exterior largely disappeared, to be replaced by plain walls with an 
offering niche, called a "false door," at either end of the east facade. The southern niche 
was the more important one, and later became the focus of the mortuary cult. 

From the beginning of the 2nd Dynasty, tombs in the Memphite necropolis, where the 
limestone strata are near the surface, were hewn in the rock. Access was by a stairway, 
and the tomb was covered by a mudbrick mastaba. Outside the Memphite region, where 
the geology was less favorable for rock-cut tombs, the older, partially excavated 
mudbrick constructions continued to be built. In the 2nd Dynasty the tomb appears to 
have been conceived as a house for the deceased, and the burial chamber was divided by 
mudbrick walls into a suite of rooms. The coffin was placed on a raised platform in the 
"bedroom" and some tombs were even provided with a replica lavatory. Later in the 2nd 
Dynasty a longitudinal layout was gradually adopted for tombs, with subsidiary 
chambers, often in pairs, opening off the central corridor. 

Burials of lower-ranking officials and members of local elites (represented, for 
example, at Naga ed-Deir in Upper Egypt) generally followed the same sequence of 
development, though tombs were smaller. With fewer grave goods, there was never any 
need for a hollow superstructure divided into storerooms. 

Royal retainers and craftsmen were generally buried in simple mudbrick-lined 
rectangular pits, covered with a low, vaulted superstructure. A false door at the southern 
end of the eastern face was introduced in the middle of the 1st Dynasty. In the 2nd 
Dynasty, simple shaft tombs (a vertical shaft leading to a single, rock-cut chamber) were 
the norm for lower status officials. 

The graves of the vast majority of the population showed little change from the 
Predynastic period. The body might be wrapped in a cloth or animal skin, or simply 
placed directly in a rectangular or oval pit, cut in the surface gravel. Some pits were 
divided into two chambers, a larger one for the actual burial and a smaller one for pottery. 
After the pit had been roofed with a mat or wooden planks, the excavated gravel was 
heaped up in a mound to cover the grave. Toward the end of the 1st Dynasty, pits lined 
with mudbricks became increasingly common, but otherwise, the simplest graves 
changed little throughout the Early Dynastic period. 

Although the basic design of tombs varied little between different regions of the 
country, the local geology had some effect on construction techniques. Thus the 
availability of good-quality limestone in the Memphite area encouraged the early use of 
stone. Some of the 1st Dynasty tombs at Helwan show extensive use of stone for 
portcullis blocks, roofing slabs and the lining of the burial chamber. 

Early Dynastic tombs were furnished with a wide variety of grave goods. The 
sumptuous burial equipment of the elite tombs at North Saqqara included numerous stone 
vessels. Some tombs had stone vessels which had probably been deliberately smashed, as 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 318 

part of the funerary ritual. Many artifacts from the North Saqqara tombs appear to have 
been produced in the same royal workshops which supplied the king's tomb. They 
include fine wooden furniture, games, jewelry, chests of linen garments, copper vessels 
and tools, and flint tools. The most important supplies were of food and drink, to provide 
sustenance for the tomb owner in the afterlife. The provisions commonly included large 
joints of meat, loaves of bread, jars of cheese and rows of so-called "wine jars." Some 
high status burials were provided with a funerary meal, laid out on ceramic and stone 
plates next to the coffin. Poorer graves merely contained some jars of provisions and a 
few additional offerings, such as toilet implements or the occasional stone vessel. 

Some 1st Dynasty elite tombs also included the burial of a wooden boat, placed in a 
shallow trench next to the tomb and covered with a layer of mudbricks. Boat burials have 
been found at Abu Roash, North Saqqara and Helwan, and suggest that beliefs about the 
afterlife already incorporated the notion of a celestial journey. 

First Dynasty tombs of courtiers, particularly at Abydos, were often marked by a 
limestone stela with the name, and sometimes the titles, of the deceased. In the 2nd 
Dynasty a feature of many officials' burials at Helwan was a "ceiling stela." This stela 
showed the name, titles and a representation of the tomb owner. Some of the earliest 
examples of the well-known offering formula are preserved on such stelae. 

Irrespective of status, the deceased was buried in a contracted position. The orientation 
of the body varied and probably depended upon the direction from which offerings would 
be brought. Although true mummification had not yet been developed in the Early 
Dynastic period, attempts were made to preserve the body, or at least its appearance. In 
some 2nd Dynasty burials at North Saqqara the features of the deceased were carefully 
modeled in linen bandages, soaked in a resinous substance. Wooden coffins are attested 
from the early 1st Dynasty in high status burials, but by the 2nd Dynasty they had been 
adopted by all classes. 

See also 

Abydos, Early Dynastic funerary enclosures; Abydos, Umm el-Qa'ab; Early Dynastic 
period, overview; Helwan; Kafr Tarkhan (Kafr Ammar); Minshat Abu Omar; Naga ed- 
Deir; Saqqara, North, Early Dynastic tombs; Tura, Dynastic burials and quarries 

Further reading 

Emery, W.B. 1961. Archaic Egypt. Harmondsworth. 

Reisner, G.A. 1936. The Development of the Egyptian Tomb down to the Accession of Cheops. 

Cambridge, MA. 
Saad, Z.Y. 1969. The Excavations at Helwan: Art and Civilization in the First and Second 

Egyptian Dynasties. Norman, OK. 
Spencer, A.J. 1993. Early Egypt: The Rise of Civilisation in the Nile Valley. London. 


Entries A-Z 319 


The town of Edfu (24°59' N, 32°52' E) is located on the west bank of the Nile River, 
between Luxor to the north and Aswan to the south (about 100km from each). In Graeco- 
Roman times it was called Apollinopolis Magna, the local god Horus being identified 
with the Greek god Apollo. The modern Arabic name Edfu is a direct descendant of the 
ancient Egyptian name Djeba, (Etbo, in Coptic). Edfu was an important regional center 
since the Old Kingdom. This is partly due to the large area of fertile land belonging to the 
town, and partly to the fact that Edfu was situated near the former frontier between Egypt 
and Nubia. Edfu was a starting point for desert routes leading to the Kharga Oasis in the 
west, and to the mines of the Eastern Desert and the Red Sea coast in the east. 

No remains go back beyond the 5th Dynasty, but at least toward the end of the Old 
Kingdom, Edfu was the capital of Nome II of Upper Egypt. The most ancient Edfu 
cemetery, comprising the mastabas of the Old Kingdom as well as later tombs, covers the 
area southwest of the precinct of the great temple of Horus. One of the mastabas 
belonged to Isi who was the "great chief of the Nome (of Edfu)" early in the 6th Dynasty. 
Later, in the Middle Kingdom, Isi became a local saint and was worshipped under the 
title "living god." Before the beginning of the New Kingdom, the necropolis was 
transferred to Hager Edfu, a place about 4km to the west, and finally in the Late period to 
Nag' el-Hassaya, 12km to the south, the whole area being called Behedet. Some ruins of 
the ancient town rise at a distance of about 150m west of the great temple of Horus. They 
form an artificial hill (in Arabic, tell) consisting of the usual debris of a permanently 
inhabited human settlement. In this western part of Tell Edfu, excavations were carried 
out in the first decades of the twentieth century. A resumption of the excavations would 
likely achieve good results, but would encounter difficulties because the eastern part of 
the ancient town lies under the modern habitations of Edfu. There are, however, plans to 
evacuate the people living near the eastern enclosure wall in order to be able to start 
excavations in this area. 

Close to the eastern tower of the pylon (the monumental gate) of the great temple the 
remains of another pylon have been unearthed. It dates from the Ramesside period and, 
though having a different orientation, it perhaps formed part of one of the predecessors of 
the extant great temple of Edfu. This temple precinct was comprised of many buildings, 
first of all the main temple within its own enclosure wall made of stone, and further 
subsidiary temples, smaller chapels, workshops, storehouses and dwellings. Most of them 
have been destroyed completely or lie beneath the houses of the present town. This is also 
true of the sacred lake and the slaughterhouse, which were located east of the great 
temple. South of the temple are the ruins of the so-called mammisi, or birthhouse, a 
temple in which the birth of the god Harsomtus was celebrated. The scanty architectural 
remains east of the mammisi probably belong to the temple of the sacred falcon. The most 
important building at Edfu is the temple of the god Horus Behedeti, lord of Edfu. Its 
excellent state of preservation is partly due to the fact that most of it was buried under 
sand before about 1860. In that year the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette ordered it 
to be cleared of the sand, rubbish and mudbrick houses that had been built against its 
enclosure wall, in the court and even on its spacious roof. 

Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 320 

The most sacred part of the Horns temple is the granite shrine (naos) which gave 
shelter to the main statue of Horus Behedeti, located near the rear wall of the sanctuary. 
Eight chapels open off the corridor that leads around the sanctuary; probably most of 
them lodged the statues of the major gods and goddesses of Egypt, who formed the divine 
following of Horus Behedeti; others were used for special religious rites. In front of the 
sanctuary there is an antechamber. East of the antechamber, a small sacrificial court gives 
access to the w'bt, or "pure place," where the statues of the deities were anointed and 
dressed, where they received their crowns and amulets before leaving the interior of the 
temple and gaining its roof, on the occasion of special festivals. To the west of the 
antechamber is a small room dedicated to the god Min. The next main chamber toward 
the exit is the hall of the offering tables; on each side of it there is an approach to one of 
the staircases leading to the temple roof. Next follows the inner hypostyle hall, the roof of 
which is supported by twelve columns with rich floral capitals. The adjoining side 
chambers to the east served as access to the inner passage round the temple and as a 
treasury for precious metals and stones. The adjacent chambers to the west are the so- 
called "laboratory" for the sacred oils and ointments, and the "Nile-chamber" where the 
sacred water was poured into a basin after it had been brought from the nilometer, 
situated outside the girdle-wall. The main fabric of the temple ends with the outer 
hypostyle hall; the twelve columns inside are the highest of the whole temple (12.5m). In 
the eastern part of its facade the library has been installed in a small chamber; two 
catalogs are inscribed on the walls giving the titles of the books (scrolls) that were 
preserved in two niches. The small chamber in the western part of the facade was 
dedicated to the consecration of the priest who performed the religious rites on behalf of 
the king. The main entrance of the pronaos opens to a large court, surrounded on three 
sides by a covered colonnade of thirty-two columns. To the south the court is limited by 
the mighty pylon, the towers of which are more than 35m high. The girdle-wall having a 
height of about 10m abuts against the towers of the pylon (circa 137><47m). 

A lengthy inscription on the outer face of the girdle-wall (a text-band circa 300m in 
length) gives details concerning the names and functions of the different halls and 
chambers of the temple. This inscription not only gives an account of the entire building, 
but also relates the history of its construction. The temple was begun on August 23, 237 
BC by Ptolemy III and completed on December 5, 57 BC under the rule of Ptolemy XII. 

The inscriptions of the temple of Edfu were published by Emile Chassinat in eight 
volumes, amounting to about 3,000 pages altogether. They contain an enormous amount 
of information on many different subjects. For instance, one long sequence of texts and 
ritual scenes accurately lists the estates of the temple, which extended over 180km 
between Aswan and Thebes. On the walls of the "laboratory" we can read the exact 
prescriptions for making the sacred oils and ointments. The jambs of some of the 
doorways bear inscriptions that reveal the moral obligations of the priesthood. Many texts 
on the inner face of the girdle-wall treat the creation of the world which emerged from 
the primeval waters at the very spot that would become Edfu; the world and all the things 
and creatures on it were the emanation of "Horus Behedeti, the great god, the lord of the 
Sky," forming a part of his body. About 2,000 ritual scenes show the king offering to the 
gods in order to obtain from them what Egypt needed for the maintenace of life. Other 
texts deal with the daily ritual, festivals and the complex theology of Edfu. 

Entries A-Z 321 

The lords of Edfu were Horus Behedeti, his divine consort Hathor of Dendera and 
their son Harsomtus. Besides them many other deities were venerated, for instance Isis, 
Nephthys and Osiris, Re, Ptah, Khonsu, Min, Khnum and Mehit, and there was even a 
cult for the royal ancestors. In Egypt many Horus-gods were worshipped. The specific 
Horus of Edfu was Horus-Re, often represented as a winged sun-disk or as a winged 
scarab. Being the divine archetype of terrestrial kingship, he defended Egypt against all 
kinds of foes. The embodiment of his enemies was the god Seth, and many scenes in the 
temple of Edfu show Horus killing Seth, the latter appearing in the shape of a crocodile, a 
hippopotamus or a donkey. 

The daily ritual in the temple started with a morning song that was sung in front of the 
sanctuary. In several stanzas all the members of the god's body are woken, as well as his 
insignia, his throne and finally even the halls, chambers and columns of the temple. Then 
the sanctuary and the shrine were opened. Incense and fresh water were offered to Horus, 
religious rites were performed and the god received his offering meal. The ritual was 
repeated twice in the course of the day, probably in an abbreviated form. In the evening 
the doors of the shrine were closed and sealed. On festival days the religious ritual was 
more extensive. 

One of the most important festivals commemorated the victory of Horus over Seth. 
Here, an analogy is drawn between this victory and the annual coming north of the sun 
until the summer solstice. Each year on the occasion of the Festival of Behedet, Hathor 
traveled from Dendera to Edfu. This feast lasted for fourteen days; during that period 
Horus and Hathor visited the tombs of the ancestor-gods situated in the necropolis of 
Behedet and performed all the necessary rites before these gods who were believed to 
guarantee the annual regeneration of the world. Two other important festivals were the 
yearly coronation of the sacred falcon and the festival of the New Year, when the statues 
of the deities were carried out of the interior of the temple up to the roof in order to 
expose them to the vivifying rays of the sun god Re. 

See also 

Dendera; Late and Ptolemaic periods, overview; Mariette, Francois Auguste Ferdinand; 

Further reading 

Alliot, M. 1949-54. Le culte d'Horus a Edfou au temps des Ptolemees (BdE 20). Cairo. 
Cauville, S. 1987. Essai sur la theologie du temple d'Horus a Edfou (BdE 102). Cairo. 
Fairman, H.W. 1974. The Triumph of Horus: An Ancient Egyptian Sacred Drama. Berkeley, CA. 
Kurth, D. 1994. Inschriften aus dem Tempel des Horus von Edfu. Zurich. 

. 1998. Die Inschriften des Tempels von Edfu. Wiesbaden. 

Vernus, P. 1986. Tell Edfu. In LA 6:323-31. 


Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt 322 

Egyptian (language), decipherment of 

Few triumphs of human ingenuity capture the imagination as much as the decipherment 
of hieroglyphic writing in 1822. The decipherment came in the wake of Napoleon's 
expedition to Egypt (1798-1801). While working on a fort near Rosetta in 1799, soldiers 
found a stone slab inscribed with three scripts: Greek at the bottom and two undeciphered 
scripts, hieroglyphic proper and demotic, at the top and in the center. From its discovery 
to the watershed developments of 1822, the Rosetta Stone formed the focus of all efforts 
at decipherment, even if it did not provide the final clues. Yet as the beacon of incentive, 
it has appropriately become the symbol of the decipherment. 

The process leading to the decipherment is complex. With hindsight, occasional 
correct insights can be isolated, but many are lucky guesses. Many others are mixed with 
false views. Above all, a plausible assumption is not proof. Three scholars whose 
contributions deserve mention with respect to the decipherment of Egyptian are Silvestre 
de Sacy, Johan Akerblad and Thomas Young. 

Three definitions of the decipherment are possible. In the broadest sense, the 
decipherment involves the recovery of: (1) the Egyptian language (Old Egyptian, Middle 
Egyptian, Late Egyptian, Demotic and Coptic); (2) three scripts (hieroglyphic proper and 
two cursive derivatives, hieratic and demotic); and (3) the system of hieroglyphic writing. 
In this sense, the decipherment is still ongoing. 

In another definition, the decipherment involves (3) only: recovering the hieroglyphic 
script as a system of putting language into writing. Two steps can be distinguished in this 
second definition. The second of these two steps is the pivotal insight by Jean-Francois 
Champollion on the morning of September 14 1822. This second step by itself is the 
decipherment in the third, narrowest, sense. 

Champollion was in two respects well prepared for the task of decipherment. He had a 
thorough knowledge of Coptic, a language which was generally thought to be later 
Egyptian. By 1821, he was also convinced of what had been suspected before, that the 
three hieroglyphic scripts were basically the same. Finding the key to one would result in 
the decipherment of all three. 

Decipherment of the alphabet (spring and summer 1822) 

When one faces an unknown language in an unknown script, one first looks for words of 
which both meaning and sound are known to obtain a sense of how the script represents 
the language. But this may seem like putting the cart before the horse. Yet hieroglyphic 
inscriptions do, in fact, contain such words, the names of Greek and Roman kings and 
emperors who had ruled over Egypt and were known from classical sources. Since names 
such as Alexander, Cleopatra and Caesar could not be translated, it was reasonable to 
assume that hieroglyphic writing would present them roughly as pronounced in Greek. 
Foreign names could therefore offer a point of departure. 

In comparing what seemed to be the names of Ptolemy and Cleopatra, Champollion 
observed that the first hieroglyph in Ptolemy was the same as the fifth in Cleopatra and 
could therefore be identified as the hieroglyph expressing the sound "p." Then he noted 

Entries A-Z 323 

that the fourth hieroglyph in Ptolemy was the same as the second in Cleopatra. By 
repeating this matching procedure with several names, Champollion reconstructed a 
fairly complete alphabet, first in demotic and a little later also in hieroglyphic proper. 

In retrospect, the recovery of the alphabet was possible due to the coincidence of three 
facts: (1) hieroglyphic texts contained names known from non-hieroglyphic sources; (2) 
these names were spelled phonetically or alphabetically; and (3) the alphabet played a 
crucial role in hieroglyphic writing of all times. These three facts are independent from 
one another. 

The alphabet had now been deciphered. This discovery was communicated to the 
French Academy in the famous "Letter to M.Dacier," which is often referred to as the 
Magna Carta of the decipherment. However, it contains only the first step of two steps. 
After all, the Egyptian alphabet might have been used only to spell foreign names. The 
crucial second step, which constitutes the decipherment in its narrowest definition, 
followed in 1822. 

Mixed character of the hieroglyphic script 

Champollion had not had access to many texts from before the Ptolemaic period when, 
on the morning of September 14 1822, he received copies of inscriptions from the famous 
rock temple at Abu Simbel, built in the thirteenth century BC. In one of the cartouches, 
he saw the royal name '™\ The sign I, depicting a folded cloth, represented s in his 
alphabet. This gave "?-?-s-s." Turning his attention to the sun disk at the beginning, he 
had the good fortune of thinking of the Coptic word for "sun": re. This provisionally gave 
"Re-?-s-s." Next, "Ramesses" came to mind, a royal name often mentioned in Greek 
sources. If ^lliVwas Ramesses, what about I, a sign now known to depict three animal 
skins tied together? Tentatively proceeding on this path, Champollion recalled two 
things. First, on the basis of relative location, it had been established that the group ifiT 
occurs on the Rosetta Stone in the word